Tuesday, August 09, 2011

10 Tips For Polishing Your Manuscript

Writing a good novel takes equal doses of time, energy, creativity, and hard work. Preparing a manuscript to send to an editor requires a similar sort of effort. Proofreading is a novelist's best tool for turning a rough draft into a novel worthy of publication. A novelist should keep these proofreading tips in mind when it is time to sift through his or her latest work:
  1. Step away. Once you have completed a draft of your novel, let it sit for a few days before proofreading. It will allow you to see your work from a fresh perspective.
  2. Wake up. Proofread at a time of day when you are alert and full of energy. It does little good to try to catch errors if you are half asleep.
  3. Use a spelling and grammar-checker. Your spelling and grammar-checker should not be your only tool, but it can help you catch the most obvious errors up front and save valuable time.
  4. Print it out. Seeing your words printed on actual paper can highlight errors that might not be obvious if you just look at your computer screen.
  5. Track repeated mistakes. Take note of which mistakes keep showing up in the manuscript. If you find yourself making certain errors repeatedly, recognizing it will allow you to correct those mistakes in the rough draft stage.
  6. Read out loud. One of the best proofreading tips is to read your novel out loud. Words and sentences sound differently in your head. Reading them aloud can help you figure out which ones do not fit.
  7. Listen to your novel. Record yourself reading your manuscript aloud or use a text-to-speech program. It will give you a better idea of how it flows.
  8. Use your eyes. Check your own work from start to finish at least once before passing it off to someone else and letting them proofread it.
  9. Do not edit. Proofreading is not about editing story elements such as scenes or dialogue. That step should be taken care of separately before you start proofreading.
  10. Repeat the process. You will never catch every error the first time around. Go through your novel multiple times until you no longer find any significant errors.
Using these proofreading tips will make polishing a novel a much less daunting task. These tips will also leave you more time to devote to writing your next novel.

About the author: Randall Davidson is one of the founders of ProofreadingServices.Us, a proofreading service that offers book proofreading. Randall enjoys sharing writing tips and best practices with other authors.


BellaVida said...

Great list of tips.

Ane Mulligan said...

The one thing I don't do is print and read. I think I need to start doing that. I thought about putting it on my iPad, but the page numbers change so it isn't as easy to track the changes and I do't know how to use my iPad fully yet. :)

I guess that means I'll have to print.

Randall said...

@BellaVida: Thank you!

@Ane: There's nothing quite like printing a document to review it. I highly recommend it. Thank you for your comment and good luck!

- Randall

Normandie Ward Fischer said...

One more suggestion: If you own a Kindle -- or other e-reader -- upload your manuscript. After I've done all that Randall suggests, I still find glitches when I use another medium such as the Kindle. (It will read the manuscript aloud, but the voice annoys me.) To circumvent the page-number differential, Ane, I note the words surrounding my gaffe. Then, I can go to Find in Word, and, voila, there it sits, staring at a blind me.

The last time I did this, it was an eye-opener. How had I missed so many things?

Ane Mulligan said...

Thanks, Normandie. My problem is that I haven't taken the time to learn how to do all the functions of my iPad. I'm a visual learner, but fortunately, I have a friend with one who lives near me. I need to get busy learning how to highlight and all that jazz.

Stacy S. Jensen said...

I always find something new in a list of edit tips and the comments. I have to print out a copy. A fellow writer told me she had trained herself to "not need" a printed version. I hope I'm always able to print a draft. Reading it out loud helps too. Find and Replace in Word is a good way for me to find repetitive words.

Martha Ramirez said...

Great tips!

Kariss said...

I'm in the middle of this process right now and am becoming very overwhelmed. This post was both timely and helpful. Thank you for the step by step advice!