Painstakingly writing a novel is not the end of your journey as a writer. You know how you write and then delete and then get stuck in the plot and write again and finally you are done? Well, that is just half the journey. Normally, your manuscript goes through four levels of editing—developmental editing, line editing, copy editing, and proofreading before it is ready to be shown to the world.
But the fact is that the average writer might not have the finance for all these steps. So, what does he do? Does he get the book out without proper editing or does he throw it in the trash? Neither is an option!
Fact is, in order make sure your manuscript is near perfect and reduce the editing process, there are a lot of things you can do as a writer to ensure you are submitting the cleanest possible manuscript to your editor or proofreader.
- Writing Style: You might be a blunt and straight to the point writer or a descriptive writer. You could be a poetic writer or a conversational writer. Make sure you are consistent with your style and make sentences flow smoothly from one to another. Avoid using words that end with “ly” and instead of using “Very,” find a stronger adjective. Fix clumsy and awkward sentences and occasionally interrupt dialogue like it would happen in a real-life situation. Also, create a good blend of narration, description and dialogue and try not to focus on one too much, avoid head-hopping in your chosen POV and avoid using trite clichés.
- Story/Plot: Good stories have a beginning, middle and end, and a plot that holds all of them together so it doesn’t look disjointed. The beginning must have a first sentence or paragraph that can get your reader hooked. Sometimes, we are tempted to have a beginning that builds slowly to a highpoint, but this is not advisable as not many readers are patient enough to wait for the action. Also, set the stage; that is the time period, mood, setting and tone. Introduce the protagonist, define his goals and the kind of personality he or she is and never forget to add a little action in the narrative to make your reader want more. In the Middle, make sure you keep the story moving with strong characters with depth, a meaningful dialogue and an interesting journey for the protagonist. Include lots of action, suspense and a slowly build to a climax. A reader should not be happy to see the end of your book. Let the end linger and don’t just end it in a paragraph. Finally, make sure you show how the protagonist’s experience has changed or affected him or her and make sure you tie up every plot, no matter how little it is.
- Characters: To create memorable characters, you have to show their distinct qualities. Try to imagine the story without each character then ask yourself, would anything change? If your answer is no, then that character should be taken off the story. Depict the internal qualities of the main character and clearly show the strengths and weaknesses of the main characters. Finally, clearly define the relationship between the characters.
- Dialogue: Dialogue makes your story flow. It’s always best to reveal more in a dialogue than in a narration. Don’t make your dialogues too perfect so allow for breaks and interruptions. Also create a distinct voice for each character and make sure you add physical gestures to the dialogues.
- Description: Show! Don’t tell! Use the five senses to help place readers in the scene. What does the character see, smell, taste, hear or feel? Use enough descriptions as it makes your story more believable but not too much as it might bore the reader.
- Pacing: This controls the speed and rhythm and creating a balance can be challenging. Try to avoid long, boring narratives that are not relevant to the story. Avoid delaying actions for too long and use cliffhangers that will keep readers interested.
- Scenes: scenes carry the novel and the story comes together with the creation of scenes and how you transition from one to another. You must establish the settings in the scene and make sure it is relevant to the story and moves the story forward. Every scene must have an established conflict even if it is one in the protagonist’s mind.
- Make sure each chapter is started with something that impels the reader to continue and ended with a cliffhanger that would make the reader eager to read the next. Also, try to stick to the central theme of each chapter and respect the 30-minute rule; that is, it should not take the average reader longer than 30 minutes to finish a chapter.
- Paragraphs: Paragraphs provide structure and helps a reader to follow the story. You should create a new paragraph when a new character speaks and try not to have too long a paragraph.
- Spell Check and Formatting: Make sure you use a spell check software and check for formatting errors.
Finally, the more effort you put on your manuscript, the more effort your editor would put in to take your book to the next level. So, take your time with your manuscript.