So, you’ve finished the first draft of your novel, and you’re looking forward to getting it published. It’s the greatest that you can make it… or is it?
Before you send your manuscript to agents or to your self-publishing company, take a step back one last time. Is it really as good as you can make it? By now, of course, you should have proofread for common misspellings and grammatical errors. All looks good: or does it?
Some self-publishing companies will charge you every alteration you want to make. WordPlay Publishing Limited doesn’t, but even then there will only be one round of changes you can make. Once that’s done your work might be published, warts and all. Wouldn’t it be better to be spot on with your work before you send it away?
Here are four of the most common changes I’ve found authors wanting to make to their novel at the last hurdle. Getting these right early on in the process will save you time, effort, and bring your work to market in the best condition possible as early as possible.
- Is your point of view consistent?
So many times, on third or fourth reading, an author will notice what a reader or editor would on first sight: half way through your work, you change from third-person to first person, or to third-person omnipresent. This isn’t too hard to fix, but does necessitate a complete read through and potentially a large scale rewrite. Getting it right early will stop you from having to do this.
- Do your characters talk to the reader?
Your reader should be able to feel your character, even putting themselves in your character’s shoes. They want this almost out-of-body experience – it’s one of the most common yet seldom discussed reasons to read – and will be disappointed if they don’t get it. Make sure your characters are fully rounded. Know everything there is to know about them, how they speak and how they will react in different circumstances, and you’ll be able to achieve this. Going back and making it happen will take work – a lot of it. It is probably the hardest problem to fix with a manuscript.
- Is your dialogue adding to the story?
Of course, dialogue needs to be correctly punctuated, but it also needs to add to the story. Make sure it interspersed with action, and gives information to the reader. Finally, does it sound natural?
- How is your verb usage?
Do your verbs work, and are they tense consistent? Used correctly, your ‘doing words’ will add to tension, emotion, and action: they’ll help the reader to move through the book and become involved in your story. Be wary of tense confusion, and the overuse of adverbs, too.
Of course, the earlier all this editing work is done, the better. Some writers take their work to a writing group and get feedback, while others slave away for hours doing it themselves. Both approaches work.
If you want an impartial and professional early look, then you might want to consider using an early stage critique of your work. WordPlay Publishing will soon offer this service, with a two page critique of the first three chapters and a synopsis helping to point authors in the right direction as early as possible. If you’d like details about this service, then email Michael at WordPlay Publishing at firstname.lastname@example.org.