So you’ve finished your manuscript? Congratulations, you’re already well ahead of the many aspiring writers in the world. Now you’re ready to find an editor who can help you move your work to the next level, aren’t you?
For the best return on your investment, there are a range of things you can do before employing an editor to work with your manuscript. The tips below are aimed at writers who are intending to self publish or to engage or employ an editor to work on their manuscript before submitting to a traditional publisher.
First: Have you let the manuscript mature?
Putting the manuscript away for at least a few weeks, (six months would be better) allows it to mature and gives you time away from it. The greater the time and distance you’re able to give your manuscript, the easier it is for you to see the clunky sentences, the overused words and the clichés. After all, why pay someone to point these out to you?
Always remember, time and distance makes you forget what you wanted to put on the page and lets you see what you really wrote.
Darcy shifted, trying to find a position that allowed him to relax in a seat too small, while avoiding the scrapes, abrasions and bruises covering almost every inch of his body.
After a break:
Darcy squirmed in the tiny seat, searching for a position that let him relax without bumping the scrapes, abrasion and bruises covering his body.
With enough time away from the manuscript, you’ll be surprised by what is on the page, good and bad.
Second: Have you read your manuscript aloud?
By reading the manuscript out loud, as horrible as it can be, you hear what works and what doesn’t. If you can, record yourself reading your manuscript and listen for the awkward phrasing. It’s these difficult points where your reader may decide to walk away.
If you can’t listen to yourself, ask someone else to read it to you. Or use one of the many programs that will read a document to you. Personally, I tend to use Dragon software, but that’s because I have access to it. Have a look around and see what software is available. A computerised voice reading your manuscript isn’t as good as you reading it but it’s better than hearing it only in your head.
Third: Have you used online editing tools?
There is debate about the validity of online or computer editing tools. I find them useful for forcing a writer to think. The tools show you where you have too many passive or sticky sentences, have overused words and can show you the reading level of your work.
Many programs exist; Hemmingway, Prowriting Aid, Autocrit are some of the ones I’ve reviewed. All of them have their strengths and weaknesses but by using them, you are identifying some of the things a good editor will find anyway. Once you have the reports back from the programs you are able to look at what has been highlighted and decide what, if anything, you want to change.
Fourth: Have you made any changes?
All of the work above should have identified things you want to change. By making those changes, getting the manuscript as close to perfect as you can before you send it to the editor, will ensure a good return on investment because the editor will be able to focus on the things that you are too close to see.
A good writer may be too close to their characters and the storyline itself to see any problems. This is where an editor can be the most effective. Sure, any editor can fix your spelling and grammar, but for the best bang for your buck, let your editor focus on making the manuscript stand out from the crowd.
This is especially true if you intend to self-publish. Get another set of eyes, not on the mechanics of punctuation, spelling and grammar, but on the magic that is in your manuscript.
Fifth: Beta Readers?
This one can be difficult. Do you get a beta reader before the editor or do you work with the editor and let beta readers at the work later?
In all honesty, either works. If you are using beta readers before engaging an editor, hopefully someone will mention if the character is unlikeable, the situation implausible and how did the character change gender half way through, but not always. Particularly if your beta readers are friends. They won’t want to hurt your feelings.
The downside of using beta readers and critique groups before hiring an editor is you sometimes end up with a hodgepodge of ideas that take the story in a direction you don’t want it to go. A good editor is going to help you deliver the story you want to tell.
By using an editor first you have a manuscript you’re happy with before listening to critique groups. By having a story you’re happy with, you know where your ‘line in the sand’ is and you can then use the beta readers as a litmus test of the story itself.
Ultimately, you bring in an editor when you’ve done everything in your power to produce the best possible story and you know you can’t do any more without outside help. Every writer will come to that point at a different time, but each writer knows within themselves when they’ve done all they can.
Now approach an editor.
In the next post, I’ll be talking about what you should be discussing with your editor before the editing process starts.