Getting your manuscript ready for an edit

As an editor, I get works sent to me at several levels, from polished to draft. By the time you’re paying a trained editor to look over your work it should already be at the semi polished end, so I’m here to give you some tips on what to do BEFORE you send your manuscript to be edited.

SPELLCHECK

Now I know there are times when Microsoft Word is on crack but most times, if there are wiggly lines, especially red ones, check the word/s. Sure, in some genres you must make up words and most names will show up but the rest: FOR THE LOVE OF LIBRARIES, CHECK! Sure, some typos will always slip by, but by running a spelling and grammar check in Word or your preferred typing program, this should weed out a giant chunk of mistakes that make you look unprofessional at your craft.

shutterstock_107880212.jpgAdmittedly spell checks can sometimes get things TOTALLY wrong or make some bizarre suggestions, BUT if you have it set to the right language settings, it will pick up a multitude of sins. So use it, but be discerning. Missing spaces and common misspellings can be eliminated easily (I personally am notorious for typing ‘teh’ instead of ‘the’, and ‘withe’ instead of ‘with the’).

CHECK YOUR HOMONYMS.

Homonyms are words that sound the same but are spelt differently. The big culprits are there, their and they’re; your and you’re; its and it’s; wander and wonder; where and wear; weather and whether; and which and witch. If you don’t know which one is right LOOK IT UP!

TENSE

 

editorialThis is something I see all the time as an editor. I find several occurrences of people swapping from past to present tense. First step is deciding which tense (past, present or future) you want to write in. Most common is past tense and future being least common (I couldn’t even think of an example of a book written in future tense, if you know one please tell me). An easy way to tell the difference is in connecting words like HAVE of HAS and verbs. I find, if you aren’t sure, reading aloud can help make it more obvious.

 

PUNCTUATION and CAPITALISATION

This one may seem obvious but so often I see missing full stops at the end of paragraphs or marks before quotation marks. As for capitalisation, unless it’s a proper noun (i.e. a name) or at the beginning of a sentence, you should second guess that capital letter.

CONTINUITY

184928153-57a5555a3df78cf459a45874Continuity is something that isn’t as common and much harder to check. If you write fantasy and are creating creatures and names and places, I recommend a running list of all the words you make up and all your characters. If a character’s name changes several times it’s going to confuse people. Also, if there are words that can be written several ways eg. no one or no-one, make sure you stick to it.

READ IT OUT LOUD

I have told many authors this as it’s a great way to pick up tense issues, awkward sentences and when things sound just plain silly. I do this myself so I don’t skip over things when I’m self-editing for the 100th time. Record it if you can and listen to it back. You will find some horrifying sentences this way.

FORMATTING

Now most editors will have their own preferences, but the general rules of thumb are as follows:

  1. No front or end matter on a first edit (this includes copyright info, reviews, maps (unless they need to be edited), acknowledgements, fancy title pages etc.) A title page with your name and the book title then the actual book is all that is required.
  2. PAGE NUMBERS. Please number your pages. If I drop a 400-page manuscript I don’t want to have to try and reorder the pages.
  3. Plain fonts. I prefer a serif font such as Garamond or Book Antiqua but some prefer sans serif like Arial or Calibri. Find out if they have a preference but make it size 12, no stupid fonts (I once had a manuscript arrive in Papyrus font), all black text.
  4. Minimum is 1.5 but most editors prefer 2 line spacing and standardised margins so we can write notes.
  5. Standard file types if emailing. If you are getting an e-edit it must be a compatible file, usually a docx or doc file to use track changes. If it will be a print edit (my preference for first round editing) a doc, docx, or rtf will usually be fine if the editor will be printing it. Check with your editor.
  6. White paper. If you are sending a physical manuscript please use standard white copy paper with black ink.

KEEP AN OPEN MIND

Now I am a writer myself and I know how hard it is to hand your baby over to be judged. What I recommend is keep an open mind. If a suggestion is given, try and understand what the problem is. If you don’t understand something, ask! Editors don’t bite (although don’t approach me before 7am unless you bring coffee). Our job is to make your work the best it can be.

LEARN FROM IT

Edits are a learning opportunity. Do you keep making one error over and over? Write it down and try to not do it again. Do you use the same phrase repeatedly, or do you thesaurus words when simplicity is the key? Whatever your bad habit (we all have them) if you can learn from them, then you are only going to grow as an author.

Now go write your books and make them the best you can before you give them to an editor to polish.

 

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Published in: on July 2, 2017 at 5:38 am  Leave a Comment