Ready to Submit? Check again…
After taking on the job of editor and the task of assessing submissions, I am finding a disturbing number of unpolished manuscripts crossing my desk. Therefore, I hope you can help me list a few of the simple problems we, as authors, can ‘fix’ before we submit our work to an acquisition editor.
When polishing a manuscript there is an easy way to make sure you present the best possible draft to a publisher. Fix the simple things. Take the time, make the effort, be your editor’s dream author!
Simple things first
Use the FIND option in Word… go through and FIND and remove (or rewrite) as many examples of these words as you can…
That Had Was Were
Will be As if As though About
But And Then And then
Would Would be Up Down
Out Very Which Causing
Has been Had been Began Began to
To be Started to Making Like
When Wore Wearing Went
Put Just So Much
Some Something Thing Seemed
Suddenly Almost More
Anything ending in LY excessive adverb use
Show don’t tell
The ‘telling’ words are: was, were, had, feel, felt, feeling, and because. Here are some examples. These lead to Tell rather than Show.
– Reduce ‘ing’ words (present participles – not gerunds).
Incorrect: We were thinking about going to the movies.
You can overcome this with dialogue if possible in the context.
– Avoid using the ‘ing’ word at the start of a paragraph.
Incorrect: Leaning against his car, he looked as if he owned the world.
It’s best to show his attitude instead.
Here’s a link with more information on present participles: http://www.tolearnenglish.com/free/news/0gpresentparticiples.htm
Keep it Simple
– Make sure you can justify every word in sentences with more than 25 words.
– Don’t repeat yourself. What I mean is beware of repetitive phrases or words within the same sentence or paragraph. The only time repeating yourself is justified is if it shows a personality trait or disability. Also, avoid echoes. Echoes are any words repeated in a sentence, or repeated in a paragraph.
– Dialogue tags. Avoid too many ‘he said’, ‘she said’. Use action tags where possible.
Phrase things carefully
– Do not allow body parts to take on their own actions. These might be subtle but if your head falls into your hands, or your eyes follow the blonde, or a hand drops into a lap, it could be a worry! They should not take on a POV.
Incorrect: Dark eyes searched the shadows.
Correct: She peered into the shadows, searching…
Incorrect: Trembling fingers sought comfort from the fire.
Correct: She held trembling fingers toward the fire, warming them.
– Avoid using Action before Reaction.
Incorrect: He flinched when he heard gunfire.
Correct: When he heard gunfire, he flinched.
Incorrect: She opened the umbrella when the storm broke.
Correct: When the storm broke, she opened the umbrella.
Incorrect: He flipped open his phone when he heard his ring tone.
Correct: He heard his ring tone and flipped open his phone.
Make it shine
All these pet peeves have been discussed before. Rest assured finding too many of these words or problems left uncorrected in a manuscript shows a lack of care in the author’s writing. Whether looking to join a publisher or making a move to self publish…make notes and take the time to go through your work.
If you have a great story, but haven’t done the work, don’t expect an editor to hold your hand. They have hundreds of manuscripts to read. Although they can empathise with the thrill of seeing your work in print/ ebook, it isn’t going to happen if your manuscript ends up in the reject pile.
Don’t be lazy. Apply your craft. Polish! Then your story has a chance to impress.
What can you add to the list? Do you have your own pet peeves?