TEN free tips!
Things you can do to polish your manuscript prior to hiring
an editor. (This could save you money!)
Plus, check out the bonus TIP in the banner—my favorite books on writing.
Tip # 1
If you’re writing in the FIRST PERSON NARRATIVE, check your manuscript for overuse of the words “I,” “me,” and “my.” You can do a Search and the total count of each word you search in your book will appear. Then, go through sentence by sentence, with a goal in mind, and start tweaking your sentences to remove these words. For example, in an 80k manuscript, chances are you could lose the word “I” 200-300 times to elevate your creative writing skills instantaneously.
Tip # 2
Check your PREPOSITIONS, especially “with,” “to,” “for,” “by,” “from,” and make sure you need them in your sentences. For example:
Leah and I walked to the bus stop.
She said to me, “Are we going to be late?”
“No, we're fine,” I said back, while handing her a ticket, which she took from me.
Leah and I walked to the bus stop.
She said, “Are we going to be late?”
“No, we're fine,” I said, while handing her a ticket.
Tip # 3
FORMATTING DIALOGUE: When a new person speaks, or there is a new action by a different character, it is a new paragraph. All punctuation goes inside the quotes in dialogue. There is a comma inside dialogue if the dialogue tag refers to someone who is speaking that sentence (said, whispered, uttered, etc.). There is a period at the end of dialogue if it is followed by no tag or an action (he laughed, he ran, he handed me the book). Only use dialogue tags if it is necessary to clarify who is speaking or you are relaying information that is vital to your plot. Otherwise, dialogue tags impede the flow of your story.
“We’re going to be late,” Nancy said with a panicked tone in her voice.
“We’re fine,” Greg said, turning to look at her. “We’ve got twenty minutes,” he added, checking the time.
“It’s rush hour,” Nancy blurted in a huff.
Greg looked her in the eyes and said, “What’s your problem?”
“I don’t want to be late for my sister’s birthday with everything that’s going on,” Nancy said, shaking her head in worry.
“She’s always late for your stuff,” Greg replied, rolling his eyes.
“Yeah, but her test results were supposed to come in the mail today,” Nancy said as her brow furrowed.
“Okay, let’s roll,” Greg finally agreed, giving Nancy some relief.
“We’re going to be late,” Nancy said, panicked.
“We’re fine,” Greg replied. “We’ve got twenty minutes.”
“It’s rush hour.”
“What’s your problem, Nanc?”
“I don’t want to be late for my sister’s birthday with everything that’s going on.”
“She’s always late for your stuff.” Greg rolled his eyes.
“Yeah, but her test results were supposed to come in the mail today,” Nancy confided.
“Okay, babe, let’s roll.”
Tip # 4
Check your VERB TENSES. This goes especially for folks writing in the present tense. Some writers have a natural tendency to slip into past tense.
Tip # 5
Did you START YOUR BOOK on PAGE ONE? If not, cut and just do it! You can tunnel in material if need be.
Tip # 6
People often draw from the same word bank over and over. CHECK for OVERUSE of your favorite go-to words…and cut them or change them. Here's a few: that, while, however, as, me, actually, very, really, clearly.
Tip # 7
This is called “the man with the red hat” tip. I got this advice from Dr. Ken Atchity’s book, A Writer’s Time. Do not give any character “a red hat” unless the readers need to remember them. This means, DO NOT GIVE ANY MISCELLANEOUS CHARACTERS NAMES or identifying characteristics if they are not part of the plot.
Tip # 8
READ your manuscript OUT LOUD. I cannot emphasize the importance of this tip enough. You will be shocked at what your writing sounds like when you read it out loud. Hopefully, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. If not, adjust accordingly.
tip # 9
I learned this tip from Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander. Make sure every chapter, every paragraph, every sentence, and EVERY WORD MATTERS to your story. If not, cut it.
Tip # 10
TRUST your readers. Trust yourself. Find a great editor and trust her, too (wink).
This phase in the writing process is not supposed to hurt. We’re creating art and sharing stories to educate and entertain the world. Take a breath and trust the process. We all have the same goal—to make your project shine, which will give it the best opportunity for commercial success, as long as it’s given its due visibility.
Formatting Your Manuscript
Formatting your manuscript is helpful. Here’s what we do:
In Word, find the “Paragraph” section in one of your top tabs to set up the manuscript. Set Left and Right Margins at “0” and spacing Before and After lines at “0.” Double space the document. We happen to like a “0.2” indent; it looks clean and elegant. Your document is set up after that. It will return automatically when you reach the end of the page. Never use the “tab” key. It's not your friend (when writing a book). In this formatting set up, don’t forget you have to lose your indent before you center anything—like a chapter title—or it will not be centered from the left margin. We avoid all pre-styled Headings, and we like Courier New or Times New Roman 12 pt. font.