While nothing compares to a professional edit, there are some things you can do to make sure your manuscript ready to be seen by an editor.
Leave it for a week or more
When you’ve finally reached the end of your first draft, you’ve no doubt been living and breathing your story for months on end. You know everything that happens, when it happens, and how it happens, making it difficult to read over your work and flag issues.
Set it down, walk away, and take a mental break. This will let you come back to it with fresh eyes and a clear mind, ready to tackle inconsistencies and confusing language that you just couldn’t see before.
Print it out
Seeing your work in a non-digital format helps you see it differently. When we read on a screen, we tend to skim over the words more than we do with physical ink-on-paper. So that you don’t have a mammoth pile of loose paper strewn around your workspace, there are a couple of things that you could do, depending on your style:
- Get it printed and bound. Places like Officeworks have services that can cheaply bind volumes of paper with comb binding without having to worry about sourcing and purchasing the equipment yourself.
- Print chapter by chapter. This can be a strategy to help you with both the amount of paper to staple and the breaking down of tasks. Seeing your book printed in whole could make starting the proofing process daunting, while seeing just single chapters and being able to check them off once you’ve completed it can bring as sense of accomplishment and let you know how far you’re getting.
Whichever way you choose, make sure to adjust your manuscript to 1.5pt line spacing, get out your red pen and sticky notes, and get to work.
Reading your work out loud is a great way to catch complicated sentences, typos, missing words—you name it. If you find it difficult, have a home situation where this isn’t viable, or just generally don’t feel comfortable speaking your book out loud, there are built in functions in writing software that can read it out for you, meaning you can sit back and relax with your headphones in a notepad at the ready for dotting down corrections.
If you’re using Microsoft Word to type up your manuscript, go to ‘Review’ and click ‘Read Aloud’. If you’re a Pages user, go to ‘Edit’, ‘Speech’, and click ‘Start Speaking’. There are other apps out there (like Natural Reader and Speechify) if you use old or other software that is lacking this feature.
These are just three of the strategies you can implement to help you refine your drafts into a manuscript that’s ready for the editing process. There are plenty of authors out there with their own methods and tips for drafting their work—and plenty are more than willing to share them with other writers. Have a look through author pages and interviews with your favourite writers and see if they have something to teach you.