Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days is chock-full of practical techniques. Numerous examples clarify problem areas and provide workable solutions. The action steps and blah busters McCarthy suggests will help you improve every sentence, every paragraph of your novel. If you follow her advice and implement her strategies, a publisher will be much more likely to issue you a contract.—Denise K. Loock, freelance editor, lightningeditingservices.com
Learn more at the end of the post.
The only way we’ll spend less on editors who charge by the hour is to give them less to address. We can have fun with this if we treat the process like a game.
If we’re multi-published authors, we can make it our mission to pay our editor less on our current book than we paid on our last book of similar size. To do this, we must pay attention to the edits our editor repeated in Track Changes on our last book. (If this is a first manuscript, play the game with critique partners’ past edits.)
Here are suggestions of edits to hunt for.
High Level Problems
- Incidents need more tension or were covered too quickly.
- Threads have some holes.
- Endings could use more punch.
Medium Level Problems
We mention a seemingly important secondary character once.
Where’d she/he go?
Character’s action is too out of character.
We want our characters to surprise our readers by doing something risky, humorous, or bold, but don’t give them an action they’d never do.
Example: We have portrayed Ellla as a person who cares deeply about children, then she lifts a child to shield herself from pies thrown her way.
A word is beat to death.
With each book we write, it seems we have a unique word we think is the right word to use a hundred times. For one of my books the word was nice. In another manuscript, it was good. So, do a search.
If you use Scrivener, select the text you want to check for overused words, go to Project in the main horizontal menu, click Statistics, then click Word Frequency at the bottom of the box.
This is a good one for cutting editor payments. Using an advanced writing tool, such as ProWritingAid, can help.
This is another helpful one to lower editing costs. Here’s an example:
Janet set two mugs of coffee on the table. “What did Ethan say?”
Belinda picked up her mug from the table and took a sip of coffee.
The reader knows Belinda is picking up the mug from the table and knows coffee is in the mug. Better possibilities:
Belinda picked up her mug and took a sip. Or: Belinda sipped her coffee.
Not the best word used for what’s portrayed.
We must constantly click on words that niggle us and bring up the word processor’s dictionary/thesaurus. We need to be careful in dialogue. The chosen word may be a good word, but not one our character would say.
We must give attention to our word processor’s helps, but we don’t blindly accept its prompts.
Nitpicking Level Problems
Words repeated in close proximity.
- Starting three or more paragraphs in a row with the same word or name.
- Using the same word or a form of it three or more times in a paragraph when it has usable synonyms.
Example: Jen waved her hand to get Tim’s attention. He walked over and handed her the newspaper sporting a photo of her slapping the senator. He asked how she planned to handle the situation. She planted a hand on her hip and promised she’d expose the senator’s underhanded behavior.
Rewrite: Jen waved to get Tim’s attention. He walked over and brandished the newspaper sporting a photo of her slapping the senator. He asked how she planned to manage the situation. She planted a fist on her hip and promised she’d expose the senator’s underhanded behavior.
Missing or extra quotation marks, periods, spaces.
A period should be a question mark.
What problems does your editor or critique partner spend time pointing out?
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 award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.
Thanks, Sally Jo.As soon as I enter the last word on Above the Lake, I’m going to use those tips like Monopoly money.