In Part 1 on self-editing and its cost savings, I shared a list of items to give close attention to before handing off your manuscript to a professional editor. You might think finishing the items on the list means everything is ready for your editor.
But wait! There’s more . . . much more you’ll want to do before allowing your editor to take over.
After completing a first round of mostly structural self-edits as shown in the list, take a breather from your manuscript. Have coffee, perhaps tea, maybe something stronger.
Take a day, a week, or in a writer’s life maybe longer before you look at your manuscript again, so you can read it with new eyes.
And now settle in for another round of self-edits. Here you’re working to interpret any items you missed the first time through — redundancies in expression, poor to bad transitions, and sentence structure problems. Then read over your revised manuscript.
These two passes at self-editing may be likened to laying a foundation for your home. You don’t want to be stingy at this stage of your writing. You want a solid manuscript ready for your editor.
Here are some things that a professional editor, someone you are going to pay for services, would like to see in your manuscript:
- Stop and ask yourself the question, “Is my manuscript finished?” No one wants a raft of emails saying you’ve decided to change something. The pages you send to an editor should be your final, very final draft.
- Run one more spellcheck, just to be sure.
- Formatting is another place to do a recheck. From an editor’s point of view, 12 point Times New Roman is easiest on the eyes. Double-spacing makes your manuscript easy to read.
- Save your document in Word as a .doc document. If you use another writing program, other programs (such as Pages for Mac) will export your document into Word.
- Lastly, helpful information for your editor is a short summary of your work and a page count. Also, any tips for the editor about your story line or manuscript. For example, let’s say Sally gave her history professor a correct answer in lecture in Chapter 3 but gave her soon-to-be former boyfriend an incorrect answer in Chapter 5 intentionally. A watchful editor just may check Sally’s answer in Chapter 3 and be confounded at the provision of a wrong answer in Chapter 5. Save your editor time!
At this point, you may want to have your manuscript reviewed by two or more beta readers. Beta readers are persons you trust to read your manuscript and give you honest feedback. In addition to spotting typographical and spelling errors, beta readers look at your work as a reader, not an editor. Their feedback can relate to: plot — does it move, does it draw you in, does it fall flat; characters — lovable, likable, despicable (if you intended them to be, then great!); story arc — does it work, are you pulled from one point to the other. Basically, your beta readers can give you critiques of your book pre-publication. A priceless commodity for the writer, which costs you nothing!
Before leaving this topic, here are a few links you may find helpful when you reach that final word, last paragraph, last page, and the words “The End:”
Agent Rachelle Gardner on “Should I Hire a Freelance Editor?”
Nathan Bransford, former literary agent, weighs in on the same topic.
Why it’s important to master the mechanics of writing yourself as explained by a professional copy editor.
Should you hire an independent editor, and if you do, do you mention it in a query letter? At Writer Unboxed, editor Jane Friedman answers both questions with why you may want to think twice on both counts.
Editor Nancy Peske debunks 7 common myths about hiring a freelance editor.
CAVEAT SCRIPTOR: There is an abundance of information on the Internet on this topic. However, be sure what you read is provided by a reliable source. Vet the credentials of the presenter and never be afraid to ask questions if there is something you don’t understand or makes you uncomfortable. It will save you in the end.