Is Your Book Ready for an Editor? A Checklist.
Some writers dash off a book with a great concept then they send it to an editor before it is ready. Now this causes several issues. The editor is holding a piece of work that she/he knows is not ready. She doesn’t want to hurt the author’s feelings. The editor also knows that if she takes the time to catch all the obvious errors then she will have to do an additional edit. The writer may be paying out additional money for something they can do themselves.
The easiest way to know you are sending your best work is to go over it with a checklist. Take pride in a job well done. Now, there are many books out there on self-editing. I’m going to try to condense it down.
Basic Self-editing Checklist:
1. Is your manuscript in 12 point readable type like Times New Roman or Courier?
2. Are the pages numbered in the header? (Name, Title, and Word count will go on later)
3. Do each of your chapters start on a new page? Is it a hard set (Control/Shift/Enter) or just by luck?
4. Are there any blank pages? Remove them.
5. Are paragraphs properly and consistently indented? Is there a line between paragraphs?
6. Now read through. Check for punctuation. Look it up if need be.
7. Is the Point of View consistent? Do you have more than one? If so, is there a distinction made between the two with extra lines between paragraph or the start of a new chapter. Limit your point of view to no more than three characters if possible. Too many and it gets confusing.
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8. What person are you writing in? First, Third, Limited, Omniscient? Make sure you maintain your narration in the same voice.
9. Do you have repetitive words or phrases? Do you repeat an idea when it is not needed?
10. Filter words distance from our readers. Pick a better word. Filter words? Basic words (usually verbs) and conjugations. See, saw, hear, heard, thought, touched, wondered, realized, watched, looked, seemed, feel, felt, can, could, decided, sounded. All of these can be replaced by more interesting words. Example: The thunder sounded like a boom. The thunder boomed.
11. Do a word search for passive verbs…one at a time. Look for: are, is, was, has, will. These are the major offenders. Now look at how it is used. The cookies are being baked. The cookies are baking. See the difference? Read up on passive verbs.
12. Check for words that are just used too much in general. Suddenly. Change it to a more active word or phrase. Without a moment’s notice, he crashed through the trees. See the difference. Happy, sad, nice, bad, good, pretty, scared, shocked, interesting, big, small, fast, slow, told, said. Use a good thesaurus to determine the particular nuance you want to reveal.
13. Now let’s look at the plot. I want you to write down the plot like an outline. It doesn’t have to be a strict outline but it must be thorough. Now get three or four highlighters…however many plot lines you have going…suspense, romantic, sidekick…and highlight which parts of the outline belong to each….or by person- antagonist, protagonist. Look to see if there are any holes. Did Jenny tell Alan about the ring after she found it because he sure seems to know now? If Alan is the antagonist, this might be a slip up to his downfall. If he is her best friend, then you need to go back and fix it.
14. Check your ‘he said’, ‘she said’. It is generally thought that said is dead. Instead of “Wow,” he said. Try “Wow.” Sam was overwhelmed with awe.
15. Adverbs. I like adverbs. They do have a place but the current thinking is that they are evil and should be banished to the farthest reaches of hell…with all haste and diligence. So instead of “Hello,” she said saucily. Try “Hello.” She made sure her flirting was obvious.
16. Check out web sites such as ProWriting Aid. For a nominal fee you can send your whole manuscript and get back a report with all the issues they picked up. Or you can feed it in a few hundred words at a time and get a shorter report for free.
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