Preparing the Manuscript

This is my checklist for finishing a manuscript. It nests in that during any given trunking period I will be somewhere else in the checklist on a different project.

  1. Write the Book: Seriously, all the way to the end.
  2. Put it away (Usually for about 4 weeks): Also called trunking. Putting it away allows your brain to forget it. I use this time for either a new novel or to do an editing pass on another project.
  3. Edit Pass 1: The first edit pass is about the big stuff. I’m worried about tone, story, continuity and character voice. I’ll fix typos and misspellings if I see them, but they’re less important
    1. Read it through, making small alterations and noting broader changes and improvements.
    2. Fix continuity issues.
    3. Implement broader changes.
  4. First readers: The 2nd draft novel goes out to first readers for them to try out the story and comment on the big stuff. It also serves as my second trunking period.
    1. Collect comments from my first readers, and let them all stew a bit.
    2. Ask about plot points, verifying foreshadowing and overall smoothness of plot curve(s).
  5. Edit Pass 2: Second pass starts with fixing any of the big stuff that came back from first readers.
    1. Fix continuity, foreshadowing, and plots. Expand tells that need to be shows, and simplify shows that are distracting and should be tells.
    2. Commence 7 layer treatment.
      1. Spell check.
      2. Search manuscript for “ly” and evaluate. Strengthen weaker verbs.
      3. Search manuscript for “was” and evaluate. Correct passive voice and strengthen any weaker verb pairs.
      4. Search manuscript for “were” and evaluate. Correct passive voice and strengthen any weaker verb pairs.
      5. Search manuscript for “said” and evaluate.
        1. Eliminate unnecessary speech tags.
        2. Strengthen character dialogue to make voices distinctive enough not to require tags.
        3. Replace said with action beats where dialogue requires speaker clarification and/or scene needs action to ease dialogue pacing.
      6. Search and remove double spaces.
      7. Double check chapter lengths and redistribute scenes for pacing.
    3. Run Grammarly in Novel mode: Grammarly has a few weaknesses, but I like the extra set of ‘eyes.’ Using the tool is tedius, but I’d rather run through it than leave mistakes in the manuscript.
  6. Second Readers: My beta readers get a pretty clean copy. Sometimes first and beta readers overlap, but I never ask a reader to be both – they have to volunteer for that torture.
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