Affordable Manuscript Assessments has just closed and judging is underway. Now is a good time to look back over previous winners and explain, from the judge's point of view, why they won.
First, what does the judge (or judges... we're flexible) look for in this contest? Since the prize is a full edit and a paperback copy of the winner, we look for a manuscript with wide appeal. We look for an engaging story that has originality and charm. We especially look for that difficult-to-classify attribute; "sparkle". We also, obviously, prefer a manuscript that is well-presented and self-edited.
The winner of the second contest (pictured) was Legacy of the Skywasp, a glorious science fiction novel by Margaret Watts. You can read the blurb below.
Skywasp! Despite the heat, a shiver shoots
down my spine.
Nick lives in a futuristic Terra where everything is
regulated. He and his girlfriend Zandara know exactly
how their lives will progress. But then Nick meets
someone he thought dead and is sent much against
his inclination to the distant and dangerous world of
There, he will relive Jethroy Blake’s experiences with
the wasp cult and become embroiled in a power
struggle as he seeks to solve the mystery of his
father’s relationship with Doriana, the Maiden of the
The characters (a generation apart), the settings (an ultra-civilised dome and a dangerous planet) and the premise (a reluctant son carries out the last wishes of a father he barely knew and had cause to resent) were all immediately captivating. The manuscript needed a bit of tightening and some extra explanation and clarification of the more complex passages, but the finished product was judged easily as good as many well-loved science fiction novels. This is a very human story, with flawed characters and no easy answers. The author was pleased with her prize and ordered some extra copies for gifts and for sale. Perhaps if you live somewhere in the Hunter Valley region of NSW you might have seen this book.