Monday, April 30, 2012

Before You Hit Send on Your Manuscript

Nothing is more exciting and unnerving than finishing edits and getting ready to send in a manuscript to an agent or editor. Even if you and your critique partners have gone over your pages several times, doubts still nag.

Did I catch every misspelled word and homonym?
When I made my last edits did I inadvertently cut out or add another word?
Is my writing the best it can be?

Whether you’re a contracted author or an unpublished hopeful, there’s always some lingering anxiety when turning in a manuscript. Over the years I’ve learned a few things to help answer the above questions and make my manuscript the best it can be before I hit send.

Check for Repetitive/Weasel Words

No matter how many times I think I’m being creative in my word usage the same words seem to show up in every chapter, multiple times. Aside from starting my own Repetitive Word List with alternate synonyms I can choose from at a glance, I’ve been using Notetab light for years, thanks to a tip from author DiAnn Mills. While I'm sure this free download can be used for many different things, I use it to calculate my repetitive/weasel words. In a matter of seconds it calculates how many times (and what percentage) I use every word in my WIP. Then I identify my overused words and do a search and replace with the weasel words in all CAPS, so I can identify that word later in my read through and find an alternate. This search not only identifies my weasel words, but helps me identify passive writing so I make it active.

Listen to your Manuscript

No matter how many times I read my manuscript, there always seems to be one more mistake I missed. That’s why I listen to my manuscript before I turn it in. Even when I think my story is polished, my ear picks up several mistakes when I listen and read along. Microsoft reader has a free download where you can import your WIP and have it read back to you. There are other programs available like Natural reader, and you can even convert your manuscript into a pdf file and listen to it that way. These are all free and work fine if you don’t mind the robotic voice, otherwise you can upgrade for a more humanlike reader.

Do One Last Read Through

After listening to my manuscript and making the corrections, there’s always a chance my fingers added or deleted something unintentionally, so I go over it one last time. I can really be OCD about checking and rechecking, but no matter how many times I read or listen to my WIP or have my crit partners look it over, I always find one more mistake.

Double Check Your Attachment

Though many authors will agree you can edit your manuscript indefinitely and never truly be satisfied, there comes a time when you have to hit that send button. Still there’s one more ritual I go through even after I attach the document. I open up the attachment at least once to make sure I attached the right one. Just the other day I attached the wrong document because I had several earlier versions of the manuscript in my folder. Imagine my embarrassment to realize too late that I sent the wrong document. Thankfully that didn’t happen because I double checked my attachment.

Every author has their own pre-send ritual, but no matter what you do, you have to hit send on your manuscript sooner or later. Better find what works for you and be thorough and confident you’ve just turned in your best story possible, than have the doubts linger.

How do you get your manuscript in the best shape possible before you hit send?

Gina Conroy, a.k.a. "the other Gina," is a monthly contributor to Novel Rocket. She's the founder of Writer...Interrupted and is still learning how to balance a career with raising a family. She is represented by Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary, and her first novella, Buried Deception, in the Cherry Blossom Capers Collection, released from Barbour Publishing in January 2012. 


Sarah Allen said...

I hadn't thought of having it read to me before, but that's a great idea!

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

kandie @kankan929 on twitter said...

I try to get a 'table' read of a select chapters (as if it were actors reading a film script) + a narrator when I can, when I'm unable to, I read aloud, but having it read to me, outside of if it were an audio book...good idea, and less taxing than trying to get a group of people together ;-)

Gina Conroy said...

It really does help catch those typos our eyes glance over because we've read it so many times!

Gina Conroy said...

And reading along also helps because two of your senses are engaged.