How To Prepare For Manuscript Editing

manuscript editing

Follow these guidelines to clarify your expectations for your manuscript editing and they will save your editor a lot of time, frustration, and confusion.

If you’re a first-time author getting ready to send your manuscript to an editor, there are a few things you can do to make the process more efficient. These tips will make your editor’s job easier, which will translate to a faster turnaround and more accurate finished product. To facilitate the manuscript editing process, follow these steps.

1. Set well defined goals

One of the first things you’ll do with your editor is define the scope of the project. This is where you’ll decide what sort of editing you’d like. Some editors only perform certain types of editing, so you’ll need to know what you want before you hire anyone. As we explored in “What Type Of Book Editing Do You Need? And When?,” there are at least three types of manuscript editing to consider: developmental editing, copy-editing, and proofreading. Be clear with your editor if you want a proofread or a full copy edit or more. If you’re not specific about what you want, you might end up with a finished product that is only half-completed, or a more thorough service than you budgeted for. If you let your editor know halfway through a project that you want less editing than you initially agreed upon, you’ll still be on the hook for the editing she already completed.

2. Do a Self-Edit First

Good editors aren’t cheap. Don’t waste your money by sending your rough draft to an editor. Take some time to do a self-edit before you hire a professional. During your self-edit, be hyper critical about anything that sounds wordy or repetitive. Clean up any spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors. If your editor has to spend a considerable amount of time focusing on small, preventable errors, they might have a harder time noticing more significant errors like plot holes or sentences you’ve repeated in the same paragraph. (This is where a software tool might be worth investigating.) Another reason to self-edit is to get the most bang for your buck. If your editor is charging by the hour, you don’t want to pay for extra hours because you didn’t take the time to proofread.

3. Create a Style Sheet During Your Edit

Most professional editors will create a style sheet when they edit your book. The style sheet is a collection of words or phrases that are unique to your book. They might be words that you made up (especially in science fiction manuscripts), names, cities, or oddly spelled words. They could also be words that have multiple spelling options (hyphen-v-no hyphen, for example). This style sheet serves several purposes. First, it allows the editor to cross check with the style sheet each time these words come up to make sure they are always spelled the same and used correctly. Second, it creates a mini-dictionary just for your book. If you decide to do another edit before publishing, you can provide the new editor with the style sheet as a way to make their work more efficient.

To save your editor a lot of time, you can create a style sheet during your self-edit. They will expand on it as they get into a deeper edit than your initial self-edit, but they will know what to look for, and they won’t have to constantly email you to find out if the spelling of invented planets or time-travel practices is correct.

4. Explain Any Special Requests for the Style and Content

If there is anything about your manuscript that requires special attention or an unusual style, let your editor know. (You can add it to the style sheet.) For instance, if a character frequently talks to herself, do you want the dialogue in italics or quotation marks? And what about the writing itself. If you’re in the US, your editor will assume you want your manuscript editing using US English. If you’d prefer UK English, let him know.

5. Provide Your Editor With A Clean Copy of Your Book

After your self-edit, your manuscript might have tracked changes or comments embedded. Remove these before sending the manuscript to your editor. If you have comments you want to make a note of, send them in email format. Make a note next to each comment showing the page in the manuscript the editor can reference. If you leave comments in the margins, they will be distracting to your editor. Also, since the editor will likely leave comments for you, having your own initial comments can make the whole process more complicated. A clean manuscript allows your editor to focus only on the work at hand.

Follow these guidelines to clarify your expectations for you manuscript editing from the start, and they will save you and your editor a lot of time, frustration, and confusion. Your editor will thank you for it!


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  1. Your blog, “How To Prepare For Manuscript Editing,” is most welcome. I worked as an editor and revisionist in the 80s and can relate to much of your advice, remembering some of the material I received. Good stuff. I’m in the process of writing a rough draft of my first novel, a true crime story written as fiction based on fact. I’ve done extensive research and am incorporating a “backstory” into the later events, so your advice is so very welcome at this point. I have much to learn about the current methods and language of writing and editing. Articles such as yours help clarify many points. Keep up the good work. Thanks, C.A. Campbell


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