I recently had the pleasure to interview Judy Mohr from Black Wolf Editorial for Writer Wednesday. On her blog, she has a section dedicated to Tips & Tricks from the Editor. I asked her for her top five tips to authors working on editing their manuscripts, and liked them so much that I’m giving them their own post. Enjoy, and make sure you come back on Wednesday for her author feature!
Ooo… Top 5 tips… But there are so many… How to choose? Let’s focus on the most important things.
1) Don’t rush the process.
Seriously! I know exactly that lure to just get your book out there, but if you don’t take the time needed to make your manuscript sparkle and shine, you will regret it. The best way to force yourself to slow down is to actually put your manuscript into that metaphorical drawer for as long as practical after each editing/drafting round. You need distance, detaching yourself emotionally from that story, so you can actually make the hard choices. If you pull that manuscript out of the drawer and nothing is screaming out at you demanding to be changed, then that manuscript is ready to head out the door.
2) No character or scene is so sacred that it can’t find the editing-room floor.
It doesn’t matter how much you love a scene, if it doesn’t add value to the story, pushing it forward, then it’s got to go. This is the main reason that you need distance between each editorial pass, so you are mentally prepared to make these decisions if need be. But don’t just delete those scenes. Move them into an outtakes file. You could use those snippets as promotional material in the future (deleted scene/blooper reels). Or you might have the makings of another story, a spin-off.
3) ALWAYS get another writer to read through your work, not a member of your family.
They want you to be happy, so they will lie to protect your feelings. Only other writers understand what sort of feedback you really need to develop your story and take it to that next level.
4) During at least one of your editorial passes, read your manuscript aloud – not just part of it, but the entire thing.
It’s slow – you can’t speed read – but that’s the point. Not only that, you’ll actually hear the rhythm of the prose, picking up any awkward sentences along the way. You’ll hear the natural way your characters should be talking. And you’ll spot those silly mistakes that you keep glancing over because you were reading so fast.
5) Don’t pay to have a first draft professionally edited.
I know this one sounds odd coming from a professional editor, but paying someone to edit a first draft is just a waste of money. You need to spend the time going through that manuscript yourself, filling in any gaps in your storytelling, taking out sections that just don’t add any value, correcting the obvious grammatical errors or any narrative flow issues. There’s not much that a professional editor can do with a first draft that you can’t do yourself. And if you really are stuck, that’s when your writing buddies come in handy. Most writers are more than happy to help other writers get over that little bump in the road and develop their own skills.
Black Wolf Editorial Services is manned by Judy Mohr, providing editing services for all genres. Prices vary based on the length of the manuscript, complexity of work, and urgency of feedback. Quotes are available upon request and review of work. Be advised that some services carry a minimum charge. Watch the Editor’s Blog for periodic discounts on various services. Other discounts are also available. See her publications page for a list of her fictional and selected academic publications, and watch her blog for her other projects.
Do you have any other tips or tricks for editing your manuscript? Leave them in the comments below!