Tips For Revising Your Manuscript

From, posted May 9, 2016:

10 Tips For Revising Your Manuscript #AuthorTips

You’ve completed the first draft of your manuscript. Congratulations! That’s something worth celebrating. How many people start a novel, never to finish?

Before you share your work with the world, you’ll need to revise, polishing your manuscript until it shines. If you plan on publishing independently, I recommend working with a professional editor. Here are some steps you can take to get the book ready for your editor’s eyes.

• Run spell check. Spell check won’t catch every error (like the differences between there, their, and they’re), but it’s a start.

• Double check formatting. Generally, a professional manuscript should be double-spaced, have one inch margins, and use Times New Roman in 12-point font. Use one space after sentences, not two (you can use the “find and replace” function in Word to correct this).

• Check the spellings of proper nouns for consistency. This includes your characters’ names as well as places and organizations mentioned in the story. It can be helpful to create a list of these names, so your editor can watch for them when reviewing your manuscript.

• Be aware that some words in American English are spelled differentlythan in other varieties of English (gray vs. grey).

• Watch your dialogue attribution for any tags that might pull a reader out of the story. Said is best.

• Does your dialogue flow? Try reading it out loud to make sure it sounds natural, not stilted.

• Eliminate adverbs wherever possible, as well as any personal writing quirks that don’t add to the story (extra words like that or just).

• Choose active verbs over passive verbs whenever you can. Your writing will be stronger.

• Be careful about point of view—make sure there’s no head hopping. If you’re writing in third person limited (one of the most commonly used types), stay in one character’s point of view per scene. If you need to change to another character’s viewpoint, begin a new scene.

• Finally, consider the overarching issues in a story. Where are the plot holes? What doesn’t make sense? Will readers be able to relate to your characters emotionally? If not, how can you flesh out your characters to build that connection?

Your editor may find additional issues that need revision, but tackling these common manuscript errors will save you time and money if your editor doesn’t have to address mistakes you can fix yourself. Both of you will have a more satisfying, successful experience.

What other common manuscript issues would you add to this list?

© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2016


2 responses

  1. Anonymous

    Hi Melissa !!

    Read your tips on manuscript revision. Adept users of Microsoft Word can add a duplicate of its built-in dictionary, rename it to say, your current project’s title, then add all the character names and words specific to the story as they’re created. It eliminates external lists and insures consistency throughout the novel. When finished, a few clicks will restore the base dictionary and keep the new one available for any subsequent editing. You can create as many dictionaries as the novels you write.

    Thanx for your time, tips, and generosity.


    Piranha, huh. Interesting. And what exactly does one feed a piranha? Roadkill? 😀

    May 9, 2016 at 11:44 pm

  2. Great tip! Thanks so much for sharing that. 😀

    A piranha probably would eat roadkill. Ours mostly eats tropical fish food, but sometimes he gets a feeder fish for a little treat. And sometimes a fat, juicy earthworm for a big treat, which is dinner *and* a show. (Basically, I am a ten-year-old boy.)

    May 10, 2016 at 1:20 pm

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