Your manuscript is complete, now what?
Send it off to the publisher and/or agent of your dreams, right?
Now that your manuscript is complete, and your story is told you have a lot of work ahead of you. First, you are going to want to polish your script. I wish I had known as much about this when I turned in Crushing Desire and Bound by Freedom, Unbound by Love as I do now. It would have made the final edit process easier and more fruitful.
You can’t finish a manuscript and say it is good enough. Unfortunately, it likely won’t fly in the publishing business. They will tell you, in no kind terms that the manuscript isn’t polished and they can’t accept it. I have discovered in my research about the craft that there are steps that you must take when you revise a manuscript and I will list them for you here.
Steps to a final edit…
I can’t say it enough. Edit your manuscript… Edit, edit, edit.
Download a text to speech reader.
These things are amazingly helpful for first as well as final edits. When you are reading your manuscript, things might seem to be going smoothly. You know what you meant to write, and you are reading those words and getting wrapped up in the prose. Even your critique partner might miss a small mistake.
You meant to write:
They moved from the kitchen, holding hands as they went.
But what you typed was:
They moved form the kitchen, holding hands as they went.
This is a mistake you can easily miss. I know that I have missed it form time to time. JK. A reader -such as Natural Reader, which has a free download of their text to speech software- will catch these if you read along with it. I usually open the text in natural reader and my word processor as well. I can then follow along in the word processor document and make corrections while the reader reads the text.
Remove repetitive words and beginnings.
It is important to remove repetitive words and repeated sentence beginnings in the text. Overused words can get annoying and you might not catch them on first reread. Look especially for words like had, was, and that. Make certain that all -ly words, such as lazily, have a purpose. If not, omit them. Pay attention to words you overuse, and try to pare them in step two. Check your manuscript for the words saw and noticed, and see that the are not telling instead of showing.
Jane moved into the room, and was surprised. She saw John sitting on the couch, his length lazily stretched along the cushions of it. She was sure that he knew that she had no dowry, so why was he here? Was she to believe that he thought that she would not know that it was he that had divested her of it?
This is a bit overdone, but you get the picture. It would be better written this way.
Jane stepped into the room, eyes widening in surprise. John reclined on the couch, stretching his length along its cushions. Her dowry was gone and he knew it, having divested her of it personally. So why should he be here?
Removing the repeated and overused words gives the passage a fresher sound. In fact, you could remove the term ‘in surprise’, and ‘stretching his length along its cushions’ in this passage as well. They really are implied. Surprise is suggested in the widening of her eyes. The word reclined insinuates that he is stretched out on the couch. As a romance novelist, however, I appreciate that some things are left in for the craft’s sake. It is up to you. Remove what you can of the repeated words without destroying your voice.
Give the manuscript to one, or more, trusted reader(s)
A critique partner, or heck, even two or three of them can be invaluable. Give the script out to beta readers. People who will read your scripts and tell you (honestly!!!) what they think. They might give an opinion on the whole book or on something specific you ask for an opinion on, but they can be helpful in catching mistakes. Your readers can tell you if some question isn’t answered or if there is a major flaw. Some critique partners will go through chapter by chapter with you and give you a detailed critique.
I have critique partners who is critiquing my current WIP chapter by chapter. I also have two readers that read my WIP and tell me what they think on the whole.
Step four… Final read-through and polish.
Once you have all the feedback and have removed or reworded what must be fixed, it is time for the final polish. This is the spit polish, so to speak. You really want to do your best for this part of the final edit. I often use Natural Reader for this part as well. I want to hear how the final product is sounding. I keep listening until I can get all the way through without revision. Then my manuscript is ready.
There is no step five… Yay… If you follow the previous steps, and polish your heart out, you will finally be ready to seek your agent or publisher. You will also have a far better chance that the search will be successful.