10-Item Manuscript Checklist When You’re Under a Deadline

by | Writing | 2 comments

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Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days is designed to shape a not-yet submitted, rejected, or self-published manuscript with low ratings into a book that shines. The method can also be a guiding resource for writers starting a manuscript. See details below.

Ideally, authors would like use a comprehensive checklist to prepare their manuscripts before submitting them to an freelance editor or a publisher. But what if you’re on a fast-approaching deadline? Here are ten areas to review in each scene before letting your manuscript go.

1.  Search for awkward sentences. For example, separate into multiple sentences, rewrite passive passages, and reduce wordiness for sentences such as this one: Tom was hurt by a large, gray elephant when the bull flipped him into the air as poachers from the east stampeded the herd by driving their large, gray land rovers that had tusks tied to their hoods with rope behind the herd.

2. Take your movie camera and capture what you see and hear during the scene. Determine whether you used enough of what you captured so that the character and reader will experience the setting.

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3.  Check that your character has used, hopefully, all five senses in the scene—what he sees, tastes, touches, smells, and hears.

4. Look for that zinger that spices up your dialogue.

  • Clever remark skillfully delivered
  • Shocking or unexpected observation
  • Bold truth
  • Dry or humorous comment
image by geralt

5. Re-read the opening to make sure you’ve dropped the reader into the action and grounded the reader in the scene’s mood and the who, when, and where.

6.  Review the ending to ensure you’ve left the reader anxious to know what’s going to happen next.

7.  Check paragraphs’ ending words. Have you backloaded paragraphs with a strong word that gives the gist of the paragraph instead of a vague word, such as him, it, or was?

8. Research for accuracy a place, item, job, or personality you’ve introduce into the scene.

9. Enter the scene into a program like ProWritingAid to find style, grammar, overuse, and sticky-sentence problems. 

10. Have your word processing reader read your scene to you to catch typos, errors, and weird-sounding sentences.

What’s on your quick checklist to do before you send off your manuscript? 

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Zoe McCarthy’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. —Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.  —Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript is a self-editing encyclopedia! Each chapter sets up the targeted technique, examples show what to look for in your manuscript, then proven actions are provided to take your writing to the next level. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newbie, you need this book! —Sally Shupe, freelance editor, aspiring author

McCarthy crafted an amazing self-help book that will strengthen any writer, whether new or seasoned, with guidance and self-evaluation tools. —Erin Unger, author of Practicing Murder, releasing in 2019

Need to rework your book? Zoe M. McCarthy’s step-by-step reference guide leads you through the process, helping you fight feeling overwhelmed and wrangle your manuscript and into publishable shape in 30 days. Tailor Your Manuscript delivers a clear and comprehensive action plan. —Elizabeth Spann Craig, Twitteriffic owner, bestselling author of the Myrtle Clover Mysteries, the Southern Quilting Mysteries, and the Memphis Barbeque Mysteries http://elizabethspanncraig.com/blog/

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  1. Marcia

    I’m printing this . Great list to refresh and polish you scenes as you write.

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Thanks, Marcia. Some authors prefer to polish as they complete a scene. I do some editing that way.Bbut I prefer to do the final edit at the end because I will have made changes to prior scenes as I know more what happens in later scenes.

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