Finishing a manuscript is one of the most satisfying feelings for an author and is cause to celebrate. However, there are certain steps towards having a fully polished, editor-worthy manuscript. Here is a list of steps to ensure you have a fully prepped piece of work.
This might sound counterproductive, but there’s no point re-reading the manuscript until you have distanced yourself a bit and are able to give it your full attention. This is a far more productive alternative, rather than to continue skimming familiar territory and risk missing mistakes. Try giving yourself a few days, maybe even weeks, to rest your eyes and clear your head.
There is usually a lot of dead weight in a first finished manuscript, and it’s important to decide which parts are necessary, advance the plot or develop characters and conflict. The filler parts need to go, or else you run the risk of losing momentum and eliciting boredom. It’s a good idea to pretend you’re a new reader to the book and read it as a whole, noting any chapters that seem to be a weakness to the overall book.
Once you are fully satisfied, it’s time to give others a chance to offer feedback. This can feel scary and vulnerable, but it’s important not to feel too protective of your manuscript. Be open and receptive to all feedback, even if sometimes you disagree. You might not implement the changes, but it’s a good idea to think about why the feedback was given. Peers like friends and family tend to be more personally invested, but also tend to pull their punches. Beta readers tend to be more reliably objective.
Now it’s time to engage properly with the feedback and start implementing changes based on external opinions. If you are in an uncertain headspace about specific points, you can always rewrite scenes or chapters in a separate word document, and splice things in later without the pressure of feeling like you’re making definite changes.
Time to make one last full read through to make sure the edits are cohesive and read well. Reading aloud can be helpful for ensuring that you’re not in danger of rushing or skimming the text.
Now that all the important aspects are done, you can focus on presentation and grammar. You may think this is the role of the editor, and it’s true that they won’t be expecting a completely perfect piece. However, they need to be able to focus on the writing to properly assess the manuscript, which is a difficult task when distracted by numerous and blatant spelling and grammatical issues.
Finally, you have a fully finished manuscript. You can hire an editor and be confident in your manuscript’s quality--having taken the necessary steps and precautions to make it legible and polished. You will be communicating a lot with your editor, so make sure you’re working with someone who understands your process and is confident in editing the specific style and genre of your manuscript.
These steps are a linear process for ensuring quality work, but every writer has a different system. Use this as a helpful guide for when you’re feeling stuck, but otherwise trust your instincts and be proud of your accomplishments.
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