The following 10 things may sound trivial to you, but doing them could mean the difference between additional hours of work and the cost of a substantive edit vs. the cost of a copy edit (the latter being cheaper). Doing these things will also increase your skill as a writer, and you will look more like a pro than an amateur in the eyes of your editor and the agent/acquisitions editor. If you're a writer limited in budget or time, or you just like to appear intelligent, here are 10 things to do to your manuscript before you hire an editor:
1. Look for your pet words. These are words you love to use, but you may not realize it. Some examples of pet words are: just, instead, very, beautiful, cool, and starting sentences with and or but. Read your descriptions to find pet adjectives. Are your characters always smiling or sighing? These are all types of pet words.
3. Look for ellipses. There is a time and place to use these, and it's rare. They are not a replacement for the common comma, but a lot of writers (especially beginners) tend to use them as such. An ellipses is used when someone trails off their conversation (not for an interruption--that's an em dash). They can also be used to show hesitation in speech. "Honey, I ... I need to confess something. Some days I feel like a ... monster." These are the only two times I would like to see an ellipses in a manuscript.
4. Look at your comma usage. If you're unsure of how to properly use commas, research the rules. I see a lot of sentences like this: Alycia went to the zoo, but didn't see the monkeys. (I wish I could make a buzzer sound here.) Wrong! "Didn't see the monkeys" is not a full sentence. It's missing a subject. Alycia went to the zoo, but she didn't see the monkeys. Do you have a list in your sentence? If so, you need a serial comma. Hannah loves horses, anime, and singing. Only AP style and web writing leaves out the serial comma. (And I find those sentences to be confusing at times. I guess I'm just old-school when it comes to serial commas.)
5. Look over your descriptions. Are you describing every last minute detail of every person, setting, or prop? If so, you're boring your reader. Leave some room for their imaginations to play. That's what makes reading so much fun. Don't tell them everything. Hint at some things, describe others. Give one or two details at a time. And again, try to use different adjectives. Which leads to my next point...
6. Look for repetition. How many times have you told us his eyes are blue? We only need to know that once or twice. And the second time should be as a reminder because we're halfway through the novel and forgot. Readers don't want to hear that your character suffers from depression in every paragraph of every chapter. That depresses us. We put your book down. Give us something else to focus on in the character's life. Bring up the depression on occasion, but spread it thin.
8. Make sure you're showing your reader your story. There's a time to tell us some things, but we don't want you to tell us all the details of your story. "She had beautiful eyes." That's nice. What did they look like? Give a detail or two, but don't overdo it. "Her blue eyes sparkled like a lake in the morning sun." Much better. "The forest was dark and scary." How does that affect your character? "Tom's hands shook as he drew his sweatshirt tight around his chest. He stood still, unable to put one foot in front of the other as he faced the towering pines, shadows against the blackening sky." I want to experience your story, not just hear it.
10. Make sure your manuscript is formatted properly. Whether you're writing fiction or nonfiction, use Times New Roman 12-point font, double space lines (but don't put two spaces after the period at the end of your sentence), and indent all paragraphs except for the first one in a chapter or after a subheading or hard break. Don't put an extra space after paragraphs, either. Use one-inch margins all around your page. I see a lot of manuscripts that have more than one font, lines after paragraphs, and double spaces after periods. Formatting is as important as writing if you want to appear professional.
Readers want to experience your story, not just hear it. 10 Tips from editor @AlyciaMorales http://tinyurl.com/psmw2ja
#10Things you can do to save money on edits. #amwriting with @AlyciaMorales http://tinyurl.com/psmw2ja
What about you? Is there anything you do before you turn a manuscript over to an editor, agent, or acquisitions editor? Tell us about it in the comments below.