This is a guest post from Toni Rakestraw on editing tips.
So your book is finally ready to send to your editor. Before you attach it to that email, however, take one more look at it. There are some things you can do that will truly make your editor love you. These are simple things…just some attention to detail…that will forever endear you to your editor. Please keep these seven editing tips in mind.
1. Format your manuscripts. By format, I mean use paragraphs. Also, use the same spacing throughout the document. (Follow the guidelines provided by your publisher if applicable, or if not, make an executive decision and use either single space, 1.5 space, or double space.) This can be found in Microsoft Word under the Home tab under the icon that looks like lines of text with an arrow pointing up and an arrow pointing down. Set your indents under the Layout tab rather than using manual tabs or (god forbid) spaces. It’s easy to do; just go to Layout (or the Home tab) and choose Paragraph. A window will pop up. In the middle of the window is a heading that says Indentation. Under this heading to the right is a subheading called Special. In the drop down menu, choose First Line, then in the next drop down menu next to the word By, choose the amount of space you want your indent to be. And finally, spacing. We don’t use double spaces between sentences anymore. Get rid of them now by going to the Home tab, choosing Edit on the far right, and clicking Replace. You’ll see you can put two spaces in the top entry and a single space in the bottom entry. Click Replace All and voila! You’re done.
2. Spellcheck. While spellcheck isn’t perfect, it will at least catch your most obvious mistakes. Don’t make your editor waste time catching transposed letters when you can do that yourself this easily. Let your editor work on finding the real issues, like readability or timeline conflicts.
3. Double check names. Did you change a character or place name? You are the expert on this one. Go to Find (Home tab, look to the far right and choose Edit. Find is the first choice on the list that pops up.). Type in the old name of the character/place. If there are any left, this feature will find it so you can correct it. This is super easy for you to do, and you will save your editor time asking you the question if this needs to be changed or if it is supposed to be this way.
4. Learn how to use dialogue attributions. If you write fiction or creative non-fiction, dialogue will come into play. It is not: “I saw that movie.” He said. The attribution (he said) is part of the sentence. It would be written: “I saw that movie,” he said. The attribution would be done the same if the dialogue ended in a question mark or exclamation point.
5. Watch for overused words. Words like that, very, really, and so on worm their way into our writing without our notice. If the sentence sounds fine without them, ditch them.
6. Break up your sentences. It is a good idea to vary your sentences. Don’t try to fit everything into long, drawn-out sentences strung together with lots of ands. You can also use your sentence length to convey mood. You can use short, choppy sentences to create tension, excitement, or catch the reader’s attention to illustrate an important point. Longer sentences are good for flow. A mixture of the two keep your reader alert and interested.
7. Finally, continue to improve. If you see your editor marking the same mistakes throughout your manuscript, this is something you need to take to heart. Read books on writing. Attend writing seminars. Do whatever appeals to you that helps you learn your craft. It is very disheartening for an editor to see the same mistakes in book six that they saw in book one. If you want to write, take the time to learn how to do it to the best of your ability.
I hope you find these editing tips useful.
Toni Rakestraw is a freelance editor. She can be found online at Rakestraw Book Design. She works primarily in fiction, but also edits non-fiction titles.