You’re Ready for One Last Go Over of Your Novel
You’ve finished the writing, the rewriting, the editing and the polishing. What’s next?
You’ve been through your manuscript front to back and back to front and weeded out and added in.
You’ve straightened out your characters and tightened the plot and you’ve proofed for every conceivable error you’ve ever read about.
Both protagonist and antagonist get what they deserve and what they’ve earned and what your readers will love.
You’ve got conflict and chapter-ending hooks and emotion-evoking phrases.
You’ve got an opening that delights, a middle without sag, and an ending that satisfies.
You’ve got ups and downs and breathing space and breathless action. You’ve included emotional responses for characters that are guaranteed to touch the reader as well.
The number of modifiers—both adverbs and adjectives—doesn’t overwhelm.
Dialogue is strong. Setting is clear and works for the story. Characters are unique. Style is consistent.
Your favorite unusual sentence construction. The unusual gets noticed. Don’t overplay those touches that stand out.
Your favorite words. We all have them, and they sneak in despite our desire to keep them out. Can you cut one or two more instances of each?
The overuse of character names, especially in dialogue. People just don’t call each other by name when they talk to them.
The opening line and opening page. Do they accomplish all that they can? Does the opening set up the story arc, get the plot rolling, introduce your protagonist, introduce tone and/or setting?
The ending. Does it address the story opening and the character’s problem? Does it finish the several hundred pages that come before it? Is the last line a memorable one?
Do you find any words that don’t fit?
If you’ve changed a character’s name, make sure you’ve not left any instances of the former name.
Space holders. If you use space holders for unsure elements—asterisks, blank lines, hash tags—be sure you’ve filled in the blanks and be sure to remove them.
Words used too often. They might not even be favorite words, but their use and overuse can weaken your scenes. However, remember not to include so many synonyms that it aggravates the reader.
That one scene that niggles at you, the one that still doesn’t seem quite perfect. Yes, make the time for one more try to fix it. If it bothers you, it’s going to bother the reader.
Chapter breaks. Make sure chapters begin on new pages. Make sure chapter numbers are sequential.
Manuscript format. Before submitting, format your manuscript in the proper format. Don’t forget page numbers and the correct info for the headers. Check for consistency with scene breaks—have you used asterisks or hash marks or simple line spacing?
Spelling. Remember you can’t depend on spell checker, but run your story through spellchecker one last time, especially. If you make any changes during this go round.as a final step in your cleanup. And repeat as many times as necessary if you continue to make changes.
This is not an editing checklist, but a helpful last step before you submit your manuscript whoever you choose for your next step.
When Is It Time to Let Your Story Go?
These suggestions are not meant as a tool for procrastination: please don’t hesitate to submit when your story is ready. Do what’s necessary for making both story and manuscript error-free and then let the story go. Start your next project or complete another story you’ve begun. Put an end to this one.
Trust me as someone who has been through it many times. A few errors are likely to slip through even with your best proofreading. However, as a writing aficionado, you want to do your best with this final draft. A few simple errors will not be what keeps your story from being accepted or if you are a self-publisher, may keep readers from reading your next book. Submit your manuscripts when you get to the point where you just can’t edit any longer.
Get Your Copy of The Comprehensive Novel Editing Checklist
If you have a first draft that you would love to publish this year, be sure to pick up a copy of my novel editing checklist and if you haven’t already, sign up to make sure that you never miss a post of this editing series.