Tips & Tricks

I Finished a Manuscript! Now What?

B42ART Editing an English language document

You did it! You completed a manuscript! Maybe you recently won Camp NanoWriMo, or have been working on the draft for years. No matter how you wrote the manuscript or how long it took, be proud that you finished!  The hardest part is over, right? You got the words down on paper, you’ve got great characters, the plot is enticing. Now all that’s left to do is edit the dang thing. But sometimes, editing can feel more impossible than actually writing. (It may also take many different rounds to get to the final draft.) How do you start? To get into the groove, check out my top tips for editing your novel. This also works well for short stories, essays, or poems! 

  1.  Don’t start editing right after you’ve finished writing.

The project’s done, so let’s dive right into editing! No. It’s important to take some time away from the story before you go back and edit. Your brain is still muddled by the writing process. You may even feel slightly sick of your story after working on it for so long. (This can especially be true after NaNoWriMo, in my experience.) Taking a week or two away from the story will allow you to go into editing with fresh eyes. In the meantime, reflect on the experience of writing the draft, celebrate, and if you can’t go long without writing, poke at a fresh project. 

  1. Try editing on paper.

With the modern age of technology, your manuscript will most likely be typed up. (And if you wrote in a notebook, it would be good to type it into the computer.) But don’t underestimate the benefits of printing out a couple of pages a day and making friends with a red pen. Seeing the marks and changes physically on the paper as opposed to making the changes directly in the word document can increase productivity. Reading it aloud in printed form can help you make an inventory of what story you actually wrote, to make it easier to get to the ideal you still have inside your head. 

  1. Never underestimate the value of a second opinion.

Let’s face it. This is your story, you’re biased towards it. Is the scene where your character slips on a banana peel important to the story? No, but you might love that scene. You simply can’t get rid of it. Having someone else read over the story and give their opinions on it will help you produce a better story. And in the end, you can take their advice with a grain of salt. If you don’t like their suggestions, you don’t have to follow them. But another pair of eyes can work wonders on a story.

  1. Consider using an editing software.

Editing softwares can see things you don’t, and give you helpful suggestions. You can pay for one if you’d like, but if you’re a writer on a budget, I like Hemingway, a free online editor. It color-codes problem areas so that you can fix them, and even gives a gauge as to the reading level of your piece. Again, this is the kind of thing you can take with a grain of salt.

  1. Remember that the most important person to please is yourself.

When editing, it can be easy to forget that this is your story before it is anyone else’s. You worked hard on it, and you should be so proud of yourself. You may find yourself pressured to change parts of the story based on what others want to read. People will tell you how you can make your story better. But in the end, if you make all those changes, you might end up with something you’re no longer proud of. That should never happen. Screw what some people might say. If you love your story, then other people will love it too.

Photo credit: Cover, 1, 2, 3, 4


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