Monday, June 24, 2013

Tips to take your manuscript from ‘Finished’ to ‘Ready to Submit’

When submitting a manuscript to a publisher, it is imperative that your book be as 'ready' as you can make it. Yes, I am an editor, but that does not mean it is my job to correct an error-riddled manuscript. Years ago, an author could submit work that wasn’t necessarily in tip-top shape, and if an editor liked it, the publishing house had a staff that would clean it up and make it shine until you could see your reflection in it. But those days are long gone. Competition is fierce, editors are super busy, and we are now more in an ‘acquisition’ capacity rather than a proofreading, hand-holding capacity. Although we like it when you use proper punctuation, most of us are not terribly concerned that each comma is perfectly placed. But if your book contains a lot of spelling errors, if the story doesn’t grab us, if the pacing is off, if there is a lot of telling, inconsistencies, etc, we will generally not take the time to help you edit those out.

I have a few suggestions on how to self-edit that will help you to catch some of these issues. I’ve found them very helpful, and hopefully, you will too.

1) Read aloud. I know we hear this over and over again, but few of us take time to actually do it. It is amazing how many errors and issues with pacing, repeated words, and useless or unnatural dialogue you will catch when you read your manuscript aloud, preferably into a tape recorder for playback. Or you can convert it to PDF and have it read aloud to you that way. The voice is a bit robotic, but it is still quite enlightening.
2) Read backward. I suggest this to my authors all the time. By ‘backward,’ I mean last page to first. Oftentimes, when we read our work from the beginning, we become engrossed in the story itself and don’t always ‘see’ what is really on the page. We read things as we think they are rather than how they actually are, which often causes us to overlook common, simple errors.
3) Read your story in a different color/style/size font. This gives you a fresh perspective, believe it or not.
4) Put it aside for a few weeks. Do not read even a word of it. When you pick it back up, you will find you’re somewhat removed from the story and can be a bit more objective.
5) Make sure each scene counts. If nothing happens in a scene, delete it. An example would be two friends meeting for coffee where they have a discussion but nothing happens to progress the story. If there is a piece of pertinent information revealed in the scene, move it into another scene.
6) Make sure your story starts in the right place. Hook your editor in the first scene. (This might not seem to go with a ‘polish your manuscript’ post, but it is extremely important if you want to get an editor’s attention). Once you’ve finished your story, ask yourself this question before submitting: Did I start my story in the right place? Why would an editor (or reader) want to continue reading? Did I start the story at, or just before, the Inciting Incident…the ‘thing’ that catapults my main character into danger/action/conflict/change?

If you want your manuscript to stand out, if you want an editor to like your work, then you want it to be as clean and polished as possible before you submit. The number one important factor is whether or not you have a good story with relatable characters, but even if you do, and you present them to an editor in a mess of errors and confusion, it is unlikely the editor will want your story. Yes, The Wild Rose Press has a copy editing department, but if you want your submission to make it that far, then please, please take pride in your work and spit-shine that manuscript. (Uhm, but PLEASE do not use actual saliva. That would be another way to turn an editor off)


Most editors read submitted work with the desire and intent to offer a contract. Take some extra precautions and don’t give them a reason to change their minds. 


Ally Robertson
Editor
Crimson Rose - Suspense and Intrigue

The Wild Rose Press, Inc.

TheWildRosePress.com

27 comments:

Maggie Toussaint said...

good points, Ally.

Lynn Crain said...

Great advice as usual, Alicia!

Lynn

allywildrose said...

Thank you, Maggie and Lynn. I'm glad you found the post helpful, and I appreciate you stopping by.

Jess * Jessie * Jessy said...

Really good post and all those tips helped me a lot -- even though I think you did a little hand-holding. :)

Ann Aarons said...

Thanks for the advice!

allywildrose said...

Hahaha, Jess. Maybe sometimes I do a little hand holding with my authors. ;-) You are a pleasure to work with thought, and you didn't require much hand holding at all. Thanks for stopping by!

allywildrose said...

You're welcome, Ann. I am hoping to help out some editors as well as authors. :-)

Calisa Rhose said...

Great advice, Ally. Thanks for taking the time to help others. :)

Jannine Gallant said...

Guilty! Still haven't read any of my books out loud. One of these days... All good points, Ally.

Carol Henry said...

Thanks for the reminders, Ally. They will come in handy as I start edition my current WIP. :)

Ally Robertson said...

Thanks for stopping by, Calisa, Jannine, and Carol. (Jannine, I must confess, I don't always follow my own advice):-) But I'm glad you all found the tips hepful.

Anna said...

Yes, yes, and yes! Great advice. I've taken every one of your suggestions to heart when "polishing" my manuscript. Your tips are tried and true. I caught 12 additional errors (during the copy editing stage) by using the Adobe "read out loud" option on my PDF file. You rock, Ally.

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

Very informative post, Ally. I'm spoiled in that my agent does a hard, brutal edit before she begins "shopping it out." I've learned a lot from her. I never knew I was prone to using "that" or other nonessential words. Said tags? She allows me four per book. She constantly asks me "why does he/she act this way?" In short, she makes me think. I typically submit novellas on my own. I get nervous every time I do, wondering if my product shines as much as when my agent examines every detail.

To be a professional writer, we must present our submissions as near to perfection as we can make them. To send anything less to a publisher is an insult to them. Take pride in every detail of your submission. Again, Ally, great tips.

Ashantay said...

Excellent comments, Ally, from a super editor! I'll use the pdf read-aloud suggestion on my current ms. Thanks!

Ally Robertson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ally Robertson said...

Thank you, Anna, Vonnie, Ashantay. I appreciate you stopping by. Yes, Anna, you always work so hard to polish your stories, and it defniitely pays off. They're wonderful.

You are very fortunate, Vonnie. Nice to have an agent who works with your like that.

Thanks for the kind words, Ashantay. You're a super author, so it's easy to edit you

NicDarienzo said...

Great post! Very informative and one I hope many authors and want to be authors take the time to read and think about before submitting their next project.



Joya said...

Great advice, Ally! I feel very lucky that you were my very first editor. I learned so much from you and you helped me make my book the best it could be. You know your stuff!! :)

Ally Robertson said...

Thank you, Nic. As a fellow editor, I know you understand where I'm coming from. :-)

Ally Robertson said...

Aw, how sweet, Joya. I am very flattered that you feel you learned from me. You are such a talented author, and I am honored if I played even a small role. Thanks for stopping by!

Susan JP Owens said...

Good advice, I'll heed. Thanks Ally:)

kim Hornsby said...

I remember polishing until my hands hurt to get my MS ready for you Ally! And it worked.
Great suggestions for every level writer.

Ally Robertson said...

Hi Susan and Kim. So glad my authors are stopping by to visit. :-) Yes, Kim, it did work. You did a great job on your edits.

Eliza March said...

Excellent advice. A clean start always impresses!

Karyn Good said...

Great tips, Ally! And I promise not to be too literal with my spit and polish :D

Ally Robertson said...

Thanks, Eliza. I'm glad you stopped by.

LOL, Karyn. I REALLY appreciate your thoughtfulness.

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