Key objective

To assist writers who have completed part or all of a written work (can include the first chapter of an MS, short stories, poetry, non-fiction, play) by providing them with a professional appraisal of their work.

General purpose

The StartWrite Assessment Service is a cost-effective way of getting initial feedback on a work. It is not meant to be a substitute for a full manuscript assessment but rather a critical response to the work with comments on the technical ability of the writer and some advice on the next step. The process is similar to what a publisher’s reader would do when reading a manuscript for potential publication.

The report should be taken as an indication of areas the writer is successful in and areas where they could improve either their skills or the content of the work.

What the service provides

The service will provide writers with a professional overview of their writing by an experienced writer. It will outline this in a 2-3 page report commenting on:

  • The technical ability (strengths and weaknesses) of the writing, which may include main and subsidiary characters, use of dialogue, action and language
  • The content of the work
  • A brief response to, up to three, questions that the writer may submit with the manuscript

It will also provide recommendations for the next step which could include but not be limited to:

  • Attending a specific writing course
  • Doing more reading or research
  • Getting the full MS assessed or edited
  • Applying for the mentor programme


What the service will not provide:

  • Line by line editing
  • Analysis and suggestions for improvement of major defects in the work
  • Advice on publishing

Who can use the service?

  • The service is open to anyone, however members of NZSA will have their costs subsidised
  • The service is based on a first come first served basis. We have enough funds to subsidise a total of 25 requests per year.

What to send and where to send it

  1. Synopsis – a brief (one page one and a half to double spaced) summary of the major plot shifts, its theme, characters, readership etc. For non-fiction work it is important to indicate the angle or aim of the work. The synopsis is a road map of your book showing the reader how it gets from A to Z. Think of it as a back cover blurb with a few more details. Also let the reader know where exactly the sample of writing fits within the overall structure of the work. (Here is a link to Melinda Szymanik’s blog on writing a synopsis.)
  2. Writing sample – up to 6,000 words. We recommend the first two or more chapters because these will give the reader a good idea of your writing style and also introduce you to the main characters, plot and theme. These are the most important chapters in a work. You may also send in a specific section you feel is not working well. Note, though, that sample chapters should be continuous. It is hard for the reader to judge your writing if you send bits pulled from all over the MS.
  3. Up to three specific questions you would like answered.

Use the online form to make your submission, follow through to the payment form after completing your submsission, then pay the applicable fee.

Guidelines for presenting your submission:

  • The text must be typed in a readable font such as Arial, Times New Roman, Verdana.
  • The text should be 1.5 to double-spaced.
  • Your name and the number of words in the manuscript must appear on the cover page. We suggest you also number each page and put the title of the work plus your name in the footer
  • Assessments take approximately four to six weeks.
  • Always keep a copy of your manuscript for your files.
  • Please indicate what stage the full MS is at – first chapter, part of first draft, first draft, and so on.
  • (Optional) Provide a brief (half to one page) writing CV which includes courses attended, publications, competitions won etc.

For more information please contact Programme + Operations Manager, Claire Hill:

This programme is made possible thanks to funding from Creative New Zealand