Sunday, 3 January 2016

Why You Should Polish Your Manuscript


One way you can tell professional novelists from hobbyists is by seeing who polishes their manuscripts. Polishing a manuscript is the last step in writing it, but many new writers make the mistake of leaving out this essential step.
A real ad served to me about a month ago.

Because polishing a manuscript is also called self-editing, many writers confuse it with editing and suppose it's someone else's job. After all, you can't edit your own work, right?

Right, but your editor can't do her job until you've finished doing yours.

The Goal

It's just about every writer's dream to produce a hit that sells hundreds of thousands of copies...or why not a hundred million while we're at it? While there's no secret recipe for winning the bestseller lottery, there are plenty of ways to make sure your book will lose. And one of those ways is letting readers find mistakes in their copies.

To sell well, your book needs to create buzz. To get buzz, you have to put it into people's heads that your book is 'the real thing.' If they think it's an amateur attempt at a novel, or a manuscript that's so good it's going to be published someday--or anything at all short of a bona fide, perfect final product--that buzz will never have the chance to get started.

So besides having an enticing cover, a killer plot and fascinating but relatable characters, your book--if it's ever going to have a chance to hit the big time--needs to have:
  • Proper spelling
  • Proper punctuation
  • Proper capitalization
  • Proper spacing
  • Grammar that accurately communicates your message on the first reading
  • A consistent, engaging voice

The Process

Now that we know where we're trying to go, how do we get there? The major publishing houses of the old print-book industry perfected a process that works at least as well for us in the internet age as it did for them in their day. It's easier to understand if you look at it backwards, so here it is starting with the final step:
  • 11. Printing
  • 10. Proofreading: A sharp-eyed individual carefully searches the book to catch any stray errors that could hurt its public image.
  • 9. Approval: The author and publisher agree that the manuscript is in its final form and is ready for publication.
  • 8. At his discretion, the author implements the corrections and revisions suggested by the line editor.
  • 7. Line editing: Someone with a fresh perspective catches the errors the author missed and makes suggestions for improvements.
  • 6. Polishing: The author carefully reads through the manuscript, correcting any errors he finds and making sure the narrative sings and every paragraph has the message and tone he was going for. 
  • 5. Rewrites: At his discretion, the author implements the changes suggested by the content editor.
  • 4. Content editing: The content editor makes suggestions to improve aspects such as clarity, structure, flow and suspense.
  • 3. Final solo draft: The author tweaks the manuscript until the glorious story in his head is now fully reproduced in the manuscript.
  • 2. Intermediate drafts: The author improves on the first draft.
  • 1. First draft: The author begins with a very rough version of the story.

What Happens When You Don't Polish Your Manuscript?

Leave out any of these steps, and you seriously undermine the success of every step that comes after. Think about it. If you give your editor something like this...
On top of all of that though, in his effort to posit himself as some kind of martyr “for all people” he tells us that getting on a plane for a few days in sunny Puerto Rico where he cut through standard government used barbed wire to and trespass to be arrested, was posed a major risk to his life as if the government were killing protesters, while at the same time showing us details of the efforts made to be arrested.  
...she's not going to be able to do a whole lot with it. It would be like calling in a maid with a duster after finding your house flattened by a mudslide. The maid will dust the rubble, if you really want her to, but you'll be wasting your money.

More Posts on Polishing Your Manuscript:

How to Edit Your Manuscript by Michael Lane
10 Ways to Improve Your Writing by Derek Haines
On an Economy of Words by Dan Moore