There's Editing and There's Editing
You've finished the last revision of your manuscript and are pleased with your premise, plot and story arc. Don't reach for an envelope or e-mail it to an editor yet. Regardless of how carefully you've raked over those pages, spend some extra time on it.
Here's what I suggest:
- Go through the entire manuscript, looking for omitted words, duplicated words, misused words, unnecessary, repeated and misspelled words.
- Go through again, this time looking for missing punctuation.
- Are all salutations set off with commas?
- Any unnecessary quotes? I call them cutesy quotes.
- Only 3 to 5 exclamation points in the entire manuscript.
- No dual punctuation. ie: What is happening?!
- Is all internal dialogue italicized?
- Do another careful read through.
- Find any places where you head-hopped?
- Fix all point of view shifts, left-out words and editing mistakes.
- Read through the manuscript again. Bet you still find things to fix.
- Now send the manuscript to a Beta reader (trusted reader), make those corrections and submit your nearly perfect manuscript to an editor.
Doing this right takes about a month. About now you're probably thinking I don't have time to jump through all these hoops.
Make time. I've just finished judging contest submissions and have seen first hand the mistakes authors overlook in their own work. Trust me on this: Two sets of eyes are better than one, especially if that one set of eyes is overly tired. An author reading through a manuscript for mistakes sees a line written the way it was meant to be typed, not the way she/he actually typed it.
Everything you write reflects on you, whether it's a free read on your WEB site, a blog, or a hastily written e-mail response. Always think twice before sending off anything unedited that bears your name. You never know when something you wrote will land on an editor's desk.
Everyone overlooks things. I'm the world's worst at thinking my work is perfect when it in truth it may be far from it. I recently read a novel with a repeated scene, the first one a slightly revised version of the next.
Would a Beta reader catch this mistake? You bet. A final read through by the author? Perhaps.
Never assume what you think is on the page is on the page. Ask for a second opinion. Maybe even two. Be aware of the mistakes you are most likely to make and correct those yourself. For me, it's typing on instead of one and loose instead of lose.
Why is all this so important? Aren't most mistakes caught by spell check?
Nope. A recent sports brief trailing below a football game on screen announced a player would "miss two games with and ankle injury," further proof that every written word needs proofing, so step five above is vital to everyone's writing career. Put your work in the hands of a trusted reader along with a list of the mistakes you are prone to make.
Here's a common error found in contest submissions: "That was a far better thing I did then you did." Wrong. When making a comparison, the word to use is than.
A friend confided she'd just started reading a published book when the author of it asked if she'd write a review of it. My friend quickly realized she couldn't in good conscience recommend the book. Too many typos had slipped in unnoticed and uncorrected. Before submitting a manuscript that author desperately needed to put her completed work in the hands of a trusted reader. Older eyes miss things. Tired eyes do, too.
Other readers might overlook mistakes. Sorry, I can't. Not if the writer's error means I have to go back and reread the sentence, trying to figure out the author's intent.
Don't expect your editor to catch and fix your mistakes. Careful editing is the author's responsibility.
And don't throw up your hands and say it's all too hard without giving this method a try.
On day two I'll show you how to use your word processor's FIND command to identify words and phrases in your manuscript that need editing.
For a list of Toni's Search Words go to http://www.toninoelauthor.com/
E-mail your request. I'll attach the list to my reply. And while there, check out my latest release, Law Breakers and Love Makers, a romantic suspense available now for download from Desert Breeze Publishing.