You have finished the draft of your book. Congratulations! You are ready to have an editor look at it to make sure there are no egregious errors in grammar or usage and to make sure the commas are in the right places. But in the back of your mind you can feel a niggling uncertainty. Is my manuscript really ready to move on?
That’s a good question. Getting some feedback on your draft before taking the next step could save you a lot of time and effort down the road.
You need someone to take a big picture look at your manuscript. Call it a macro edit, if you will. Its purpose is to answer a simple question: Do the ideas in the book work? This review of your manuscript will help you analyze the clarity, cohesiveness, and effectiveness of your manuscript, with the assumption that you’ll go back to work to improve it. (After that, you’ll really be finished.) You should be open to adding, cutting, changing or moving elements of your manuscript based on what you learn from the feedback you get from both your early readers and then the advice of a more professional editor.
Who should those early readers be? Friends and family, fellow writers. Most of them are neither book critics nor editors. Listen to their feedback, take their emotional responses with a grain of salt, (“It’s wonderful!” feels good, but it’s not a useful critique) and since they are inexperienced, tell them what you need. Here are some suggestions:
- Check for completeness. Ask: What are three questions you wish had been answered in the book?
- Check for clarity. Ask: Where in the book did you find things that were unclear or difficult to understand? What made them difficult?
- Check for understanding of the book’s ideas or theme. Ask: What was the book’s main idea? What parts of the book helped you see it most clearly?
- Check for cohesiveness. Ask: If you could cut one thing out of the book what would it be? Why?
- Check for the effectiveness of your storytelling. Ask: What was your favorite scene and why? Which scene did you like better, X or Y? Why?
Consider their responses thoughtfully. Did any of the things readers said stand out as particularly important? Did multiple readers say similar things? Use what you learn to make changes to your manuscript; just the ones you agree with.
When you are satisfied with your revised manuscript, then it’s time to send it to us, (or another professional editor if you must, so long as you use an editor!) The editor’s professional eye will help you see what other tweaks you might consider in fine tuning your story to make it ready for final content and copy editing and ultimately publication.
Your editor’s feedback will be more literary, focused on sharpening the elements of the writer’s craft. Among the things you might expect your editor to address are:
- Organization: Should events be presented in a straight chronological manner or might a non-linear narrative or topical organization make for greater drama? Is the pacing of your story effective?
- Scene or Summary: Are there places in the book where narrative summary or exposition might be presented more dramatically in a scene? Are there scenes that drag whose main points might better be summarized or cut out entirely?
- Tone: Have you developed an authorial voice? Is the tone of that voice consistent throughout the book?
- Dialogue: Do your characters have voices of their own? Are their exchanges sharp and effective?
- Framing: Do the events in your book have an effective frame? If not, what could that frame be?
- Theme: Is your book’s purpose clear? Do the book’s elements contribute to the development of that thematic goal?
At Stories To Tell we offer this type of macro edit in two forms: our Basic Manuscript Review and our Comprehensive Manuscript Evaluation. If you would like to find out more about developmental editing contact us at Nan.BiffBarnes@StoriesToTellBooks.com.