I have a manuscript I want to send out to see if I can get it published, but I’m worried that they’ll take one look at it, find a couple of grammatical/spelling errors and dump it in the garbage.
I was wondering what measures you’ve taken and what you’ve done before you hand you’re book off to be published?
Are we talking about searching for literary agents or do you already have an agreement with a publisher and you’re handing your book off to a publishing editor? HUGE difference here.
Editors when you’ve already got the deal tend to be a bit more forgiving as it’s usually their job to make the book look professional. So while I certainly wouldn’t send them a first draft because of the angry emails I’d get in response, I wouldn’t need to go through the same motions I would with a literary agent or a publishing agent for the first time.
So I’m going to assume that this is a first time manuscript pitch to either a publisher or agent, because that’s a bit more involved. So getting this right and making your manuscript look as professional as possible CANNOT be understated. So here is the process I follow when I write my books. I’m going to add in a step or two just to ensure you get the full scope of editing.
- Get your ideas on paper:
This step is obvious. Get everything out, get everything down on paper. It doesn’t need to be coherent or in order at this point. If you’ve got some great ideas, there’s no need to write them down in the linear format. Get them down while their fresh and worry about making sense at this point. Get them out, get them on paper, and see if they’re everything you thought they were in your head.
- Organize your thoughts into a flowing story:
Once you have everything down on paper, get them organized and form a linear story. Cut out what doesn’t make sense. Get your story together into a draft. This is where you’re going to work on your narrative, character development, and plot.
- First Rewrite:
So by now, you should have your rough draft. This is the first place people tend to make mistakes. You send this to a publisher or agent, your chances of getting it published are… well, none. Read through your manuscript. Add more detail to the story, paint each scene with lavish detail to immerse your audience in the world they’re experiencing. Be careful not to overdo it. Make sure to leave some thing to your readers’ imaginations or else you’re going to bore them very quickly.
- First Draft:
Okay, so now you’ve got your first draft. I’d re-read it at this point, make as many corrections as you can. Make sure the story makes sense and has a coherent plot. Run through as many corrections and edits as needed. Rewrite any part that doesn’t make sense and remove any plot points that aren’t needed.
- Spell check:
Yes, yes, I know… The spell check feature in most word processing applications is weak sauce, but right now, we’re not looking to make the damn thing look professional. Just make sure everything makes sense, you have plurals where you need them and your “there’s” and “theirs” are in order.
- Alpha reader:
Okay, find someone to read your manuscript. One or two people here will suffice. MAKE SURE THEY KNOW THAT THEY’RE NOT MAKING SPELLING/GRAMMAR corrections or they’ll be there all day and you’ll be in for a headache. All you want here is feedback on the plot and narrative. Make sure that the STORY makes sense and is engaging. We’ll worry about making it scholarly later.
- Second draft:
Okay, so now your story makes sense. You’ve got your ducks in a row for story, you’ve got your narrative and plot. Perfect! You’re getting there. Now, I’d reread the book and fluff it out a little more. Add in whatever else you need.
- Second round of editing:
So at this point, your story should be taking shape. So the first thing I’d do is once again run the spell check. Once that’s done, run your story chapter by chapter through Grammarly. If you’re not familiar with this app, it’s a wonderful advanced version of the standard spelling/grammar check. It makes you look… reasonably professional? It’s not perfect, but it’s very damn good. The free version is fine, though I’d recommend shelling out for a subscription while you write.
Either way, just make sure that each chapter is error-free before moving on to the next.
- Third draft:
By now, you should have an air of confidence about you. Your narrative and plot work. Your story is all there, and already it looks somewhat professional… sort of. Anyway, the next thing I’d do is utilize MS word’s text to speech function under the editing menu. Adjust the speed so it sounds… reasonably human. Remember, there is a lot of truth to the idea that something sounds good in your head, but not so much aloud. Listen carefully as the software reads your book to you. Does a sentence not sound right? Do you use the same pronoun twice in close proximity? Now’s your chance to catch it. This function is a HUGE help. If you don’t have it available. Find someone willing to… read it to you. (Yeah, this will look silly, but…)
- Beta readers:
Get two to three people to read the book for you. Writing circles on Goodreads.com or other writing groups are a great way to find people to help with this, just be prepared to give a little feedback as well. Take their advice, not only when it comes to plot, but also spelling, grammar, and sentence structure.
- Final draft:
Read through it one last time. Put everything together and nip off any final bits of spelling grammar mistakes. I’d recommend going through it with Grammarly and then the text to speech app one last time as well.
Now you should be ready to and have a book that looks reasonably professional. One final piece of advice… after everything is said and done, make sure you’re satisfied with your final manuscript. This is what’s going to be representing you to publishers and agents. Make sure that, after everything you’ve done, it’s still the story you want to tell. If not, you may want to consider starting from scratch… as much as that stinks.
Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.
I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.
I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.
Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.
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Catch you on the flip side!