How to make sure your manuscript is in great shape before sending it to an editor


One of the things that terrified me about self-publishing was working with an editor. Even though I was confident enough in my novel to go about publishing it independently I was still worried the editor would have some harsh words for me when it came time to read his evaluation of my manuscript. As I waited for my editorial letter I was sure it was going to say I should abandon the idea of publishing my novel and quit writing altogether. I was afraid it would say my story was stupid, filled with ridiculous characters and shoddy writing. Instead, my editor said, “The story world feels real, like it’s inhabited by real people instead of shallow caricatures…you don’t tell us what a character is feeling, you show us the symptoms of that significance or those emotions.”

Though there were loads of grammatical corrections, in terms of rewrites the changes I had to make were very minor and could be accomplished in an hour or two. I think the reason the letter was so complimentary was because of my relentless editing and vetting of my manuscript.

To ensure a smooth reception of your own manuscript, I suggest following the steps below:

-Self-edit as much as possible. This translates to: read the damn thing as much as you can without going crazy. I read my manuscript probably 12 or 15 times before I took it to an editor. I did specific searches in Word for show vs. tell, re-read the first and last sentences of each chapter, and changed the font a few times which let me see my manuscript with fresh eyes. I discovered something I wanted to change with every single read.

-Start writing something else. I got a good chunk of another novel completed while editing One Night. Even though I loved the characters in One Night it got trying at times, spending so much time with them. To get a break I started a new manuscript. Taking some time away from One Night also allowed me to look at the novel with fresh eyes when I came back to it.

-Employ the use of beta readers at different stages of the editing process. I used beta readers after I finished a first draft and again after I finished the third draft. It can be hard to find good beta readers—i.e. ones that are actually helpful—but they are a must if you want to improve your manuscript. Whether you send the entire thing to beta readers or a partial manuscript it will help you immensely. They will catch things you yourself don’t see. There are many people out there willing to beta read for free so I suggest you save yourself some money and recruit people who are happy to devote their time at no charge.

-Read your manuscript out loud. This is really a companion to step number one, but since it involves reading aloud I wanted to add it separately. Reading your manuscript out loud makes you aware of awkward phrases you can’t catch when you read the pages in your head.

-Have professionals vet your novel. Before I decided to publish One Night, I tried to get it traditionally published. In fact, I urge all of you who are thinking about self-publishing to try the traditional route first. I queried agents for nine months. The reason I decided to go ahead and publish One Night myself was because of the high request rate I had for the full manuscript. Without this I would’ve been hesitant. Moreover, the reasons for rejection were all over the board and subjective. If agents had rejected One Night for the same reason over and over I would have thought major changes were needed, but since they varied greatly in their reasoning and complimented my writing and the characters I knew I was onto something.

I wish you the best of luck as you work with an editor on your manuscript and hope you find these tips useful.

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