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How to Edit a Manuscript

Before a manuscript is sent for review or publication, it will likely need to have a thorough editing. Even the best writers have editors which will help them make sure a manuscript sticks to its key points, is grammatically correct, and has the correct formatting based on current industry standards.

If you aren’t hiring a professional editor to do this work for you, then you’ll want to know how to edit your book in an effective manner. Here are the steps you can follow to eliminate a vast majority of the errors which may be lingering in your content.

Step #1: The Daily Rewrite

The first and best way to edit a manuscript is to get yourself into a daily routine to look at your work with fresh eyes. If you attempt to edit the work that you’ve just written, your eyes tend to gloss over the errors because your mind knows what you were trying to say. So write today, edit tomorrow.

Before writing new content today, go through what you wrote yesterday. Edit it as thoroughly as possible. A good way to do this is to read what you’ve written out loud. This forces your mind to look at the words differently and will help you recognize typos, grammatical issues, and other editing problems right away.

Then write your new content after the daily rewrite. Repeat every day until your manuscript has been completed.

Step #2: The Second Draft

Once you’ve completed your manuscript, then it is time to go back through the entire document once again. Start at the first word, end at the last word, and edit the entire manuscript just as you were editing your work every day. This is what will become the second draft of your manuscript.

I’ve written 120,000 words. This is going to take a couple of weeks to edit! You’re right. Editing during this step does take an extensive amount of time, especially for longer manuscripts. It is also very essential to the refinement process. It is where you can add new details, subtract plot points that give too many details away, or change characters and scenes to give the manuscript a better overall flow.

Step #3: Back to Language Class

Once you’ve completed Step #2, you’re ready to manually edit your manuscript. This means you’ll need to print out a hard copy of your manuscript, grab a red pen, and begin to make marks based on the errors that you see. Write notes to yourself in the 3 centimeter margins that you set for your document. You will need to go from the first to the last word once again with this edit.

Once you’ve marked up your entire document, then you’re ready to edit your manuscript based on the notes and marks that you left yourself.

Step #4: The Final Edit

Remember how reading your novel out loud helped you be able to catch errors when you were doing your daily rewrite in Step #1? Now you get to read your entire manuscript out loud when you reach this step. You can read it to your mirror. You can read it to your cat. It doesn’t really matter. What you are doing is hearing how the content flows when it is being read.

This final edit will take several days to complete, just as the edits in Steps #2 and #3, but the process is a good investment. As you are reading, place notes in your manuscript where your phrasing made it difficult to read. Alter these places or cut them out completely so you have a polished manuscript.

By the time you finish these four editing steps, you will likely be very sick of your manuscript.

That’s okay. You will also feel satisfied because the editing process has been finally finished and you’re ready to submit an edited manuscript to a publisher or literary agent for review.

It is a tedious process. If you feel frustrated, apathetic, or burned out, then stop the edit. Give yourself a day or two off. Then come back to the point where you stopped and pick up the editing process once again.

This is how you can create something that is even better than what you thought your manuscript could be on its first draft. By the time you’ve finished Step #4, you’ll be ensuring that it is ready for a professional review.

Or you could hire a professional editor to do a lot of this work for you. The choice is up to you.

Melissa G Wilson

Melissa has been a leader in the book writing, publishing and marketing arena for the past two decades. To date, she has helped more than 100 thought leaders write, publish and market their books. Her clients include executives such as Dan Weinfurter a seven-time Inc 500 winner and Orlando Ashford, President of Holland Cruise Lines.

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