So you think that your manuscript is finished…

So you think that your manuscript is all done!. You’ve edited it more times than you care to think about, you’ve sort and incorporated external feedback into it, and you’ve even prepared a super synopsis, author bio and cover letter to send off to various literary agents and publishers. Let’s just hold on a moment.


I don’t even want to admit how frequently I have been in this position only to go back to the piece of work of few days/weeks/months later to find it full of horrible typos, spelling mistakes and grammatical inconsistencies. I know that it is enormously difficult to get a work word perfect but in order to put your best foot forward I recommend that you (we) take the following steps:

  1. Finish what you hope is the last version of you manuscript. Put it aside for a few weeks (maybe a couple of months if you need a real break from it)
  2. Set out an editing plan. Remember that planning is essential. As the saying goes “If you fail to plan, then plan to fail.” This applies to editing as much as it does to everything else. Check the following for each chapter/section
    • Is this section necessary or just filler material?
      • What is the purpose of this section?
      • How does it contribute to the overall story?
      • How does it move the story towards the climax point?
    • Character development
      • What characters feature in this section?
      • What is their role/purpose in this story?
      • How does each character contribute to the plate development?
      • Are they necessary?
    • Plot development
      • How does this section link to the previous section?
      • Does it flow on evenly from the previous section?
      • Are there any lumpy bits? (Too long, clunky dialogue, boring sections)
      • Does it flow into the next section evenly?
      • Are names/places/events consistently referenced throughout the piece?
    • Formatting
      • Check all spelling, Look for words like hear/here and make sure the correct one is used.
      • Check all contractions. Are you using them or is the text formal?
      • Check punctuation (read out aloud).
      • Look for grammatical errors, half finished phrases, and odd expressions.
      • Check how the text looks on the page (fonts, headings etc)
  3. Print out a copy of the manuscript. (Really! Working from a hard copy gives you a new perspective.)
  4. Depending on the length of the book, review a couple of the chapters each day. Mark up the changes on the hard copy. Then go back and read the chapter out aloud to check the flow of sentences and punctuation.
  5. When you are done make the corrections on your electronic copy.
  6. Print it out again.
  7. Go through your check list again but this time start at the last chapter/section and work backwards to the start of the novel.
  8. Do a final check of the document. Look for formatting inconsistencies – font, chapter headings, page numbering, table of contents etc.
  9. Do a final change of the electronic document.
  10. If you have time, set the document aside and repeat this process again in a few weeks/months.

Good luck with your editing process.

2 thoughts on “So you think that your manuscript is finished…

  1. Zoe Farris says:

    Thank you Sarah for a great article. And how true. I am going through a 900page document, a Concordance, and I have lost count of how many times. I am still finding typos and formatting issues that I probably caused in the first place. Now I am doing a check for ‘wordiness’ and repeated information, and still I am finding typos and other grammatical things. May I be cheeky here and say I found a typo in your intro? ‘car instead or care’. I will be coping your list above or my next lot editing. 🙂


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