One of the most exciting parts of the writing process is finally completing the manuscript. You know the feeling- that sigh of relief once you place the period on the final sentence. You slump back and stretch your arms above your head because you’ve sat cramped up for too long. Your manuscript seems flawless, and now the next step is to find an editor or publishing company to begin the process of printing your book. You may think you’ve finished the most important (and time-consuming) part, but not just yet. Before you give your manuscript to an editor, there are some things you need to do first. Here are ten ways to self-review your manuscript before it’s read by an editor.
1. Find Your Motivation
The first question you need to ask yourself when you self-review your manuscript is: “Why did I write this story in the first place?” What is your motivation behind writing this manuscript? You wrote the book, so there must be a reason why you wrote it, right? Whether it was therapeutic or a creative outlet you wanted to monetize, understanding what inspired and motivated you to write your book will help you establish the marketing strategies you need once your book is published.
2. Establish Your Audience
Throughout your writing process, you should have already established your audience. Ask the questions: “Who am I writing this for?” and “Who do I want to read this book?” Figuring out who your audience is is important because you want to cater your marketing around that audience. If you’re writing a children’s book, what age range will read it? Toddlers who are just learning to read or elementary schoolers who will have it read to them in class?
Your audience can be more general, like a free-for-all that fits everyone, but at least have some idea of who your readers will be. Once you figure out your audience, determine if it connects with your manuscript. As you self-review, make any necessary changes needed to your manuscript so your book can connect with the intended audience.
3. Structure Your Plot
Stories generally have the traditional plot structure of a beginning, middle, and end. There are conflicts and actions spread throughout the main plot points that end with a resolution. This is the easiest way to structure a story. It’s easy to follow and won’t complicate the reading process. You don’t want to confuse your readers. Make sure your plot has a solid foundation and is sturdy enough to make it to the end of the story.
4. Is There a Chronological Order?
Stemming from plot structure, another question to keep in mind is: “Is your story told in chronological order?” Whatever way you structure your story, make sure it follows a steady flow. If the story is all over the place and hard to follow, the reader will lose interest and not want to continue reading. One of the quickest ways to make a reader stop reading your book is to have a plot moving in multiple directions for no reason. Keeping the storylines flowing and easy to follow will help keep readers interested until the end.
5. Vary the Sentence Structure
As you review your manuscript, notice how your sentences are structured. Do you have some run-on sentences? Or do you have short sentences that get right to the point? Are there places you can break up the longer sentences, so the flow is easier to read? Can you add more to the sentence to make it sound interesting? Having a variety of sentence structures makes the manuscript not only easier to read, but it also holds interest. Nobody wants to read a book that has the same monotonous sentences throughout its entirety.
6. Avoid Repeated Words/Phrases
Not only do you want the sentence structure to be varied, but you also want to keep track of how many times you repeat the same words and phrases. It can become dissatisfying for the reader if they keep coming across words that have already been repeated multiple times. Give your text some new style! As writers, thesaurus and dictionaries should be our close friends whenever we need some different, evoking words.
7. Determine the Themes/Reader Takeaway
Most stories (short and long) have some type of moral or takeaway. This aspect goes back to the motivation behind writing your manuscript. What should the reader be taking away once they finish your book? What’s the message they need to understand? What questions should they be asking?
8. Does Your Story Make Sense?
It may seem like an obvious question, but as you review your manuscript again, ask yourself if the story makes sense. Do all your plotlines connect, or does one area need more attention than the others? Are there any plot holes or missing information prevalent to the story?
9. Is There Enough Thought and Commentary Included?
Depending on the type of book you’re writing, you may need more annotation than others. For a history book, do you have enough research and additional commentary? For a fiction story, do you have enough description and details behind a character’s actions? You don’t want to leave many ideas open-ended (unless you have intended ambiguity) because the reader will lose their connection to the story. You want the reader to understand your writing and not grow confused by what is happening (or not happening) in the story. Ambiguity can be a good tactic, but only when done correctly.
10. Read it out Loud
Even if you have read the manuscript multiple times in your head, read it again, only this time, read it out loud to yourself. Reading your book out loud will help you feel the flow of how the story reads. You will also be able to hear any mistakes or discrepancies that you can’t hear when reading in your head. To make this more entertaining for yourself, read the book in different tones or accents. You will be guaranteed to find the mistakes you might have missed before.
It’s exciting when you finish writing your manuscript, but the journey is not over. Once you finish crafting your book, the next step is to self-review your manuscript. Check your plot formatting and sentence structure so the flow is easy to follow. Establish your audience and the intended themes to connect. Read your manuscript out loud to hear any mistakes you missed before and solidify that the book has cohesive, digestible thoughts for the reader.
Writing a book is not always an easy process, which is why a self-review of your manuscript is essential before you go to an editor. This manuscript is a project you’ve spent a lot of time on, so you want to make sure it’s your best possible work.
Publishing Concepts LLC provides editing and proofreading services.