You have labored for a year (or maybe more) on your book and as soon as you type “The End”, a feeling of relief and accomplishment overwhelms you right before you run to the bookshelf to get your list of literary agents and publishers.
But, before you send it off, you may want to check it twice for:
- Typos – Have you used the spellchecker? And after you have used that, go through it yourself to pick up the typos the spellchecker has missed.
- Hooks – Does each chapter begin or end (possible both) with a hook? You want to keep the reader turning the page. Do not begin or end a chapter with your main character (MC) either getting out of bed or going to bed. ZZzzz.
- Crutch Words – Have you gone through the manuscript and checked for overuse of your own crutch words (“that” and “just”) and adverbs? (hi-light all your adverbs and eliminate 75% of them)
- Tense – Check your verb tense. (This is my Achilles Heel). If you are writing in past tense, you should not switch midstream to present tense, except in dialogue. This is an easy mistake to make as you are thinking the prose in your head and trying to translate it onto the page and sometimes the bridge of verb tense between the two collapses.
- Consistency – Is there consistency of plot? Character? Voice? If your MC has blue eyes on page 10, you do not want to mistakenly give her green eyes on page 236. If he is timid and shy in the beginning, you cannot have him do something out of character like go ballistic unless a) there is a good reason or b) he is had a brain injury.
- Pacing – Is the plot evenly paced? Are the revelations spread evenly throughout the book? Is there a steady build up to the end?
- Description – Eliminate one page descriptions. Any description, whether it be of the character, the weather, inner thoughts, or the setting that goes on for too long will result in serious eye glazing in the reader. I myself have a low threshold for this and will usually skip it after the second paragraph.
- Read Aloud – Read the whole manuscript out loud. It works. Really. The awkwardness will stand out as well as any missed words. You will also get a clear sense as to whether the voice is working or not.
- Line by Line – Print out the whole book and break it down into chapters. With each chapter, do a line by line edit, looking for misspellings, inconsistencies and repetitions. You only need to say everything once, so ask yourself: “Have I just said that?” Mark up your chapter with notes and corrections, because there will be some.
- Copies – Back up your work. I cannot tell you how important this is. Do not depend on your computer to save what you have toiled on. Print up a hard copy and save it on an external hard drive or a USB storage clip which are incredibly affordable and do not take up much space.
After you have done all of this, ask someone to read it for you. Do not ask a family member or friend, they love you too much and usually do not want to hurt your feelings and therefore will not point out any flaws. I mean, if you are looking to have your back patted, by all means, go for it. But if you are looking to make it the best it can be, have another writer or a writer’s group take a look at it. You are not committed to take on their suggestions but sometimes a neutral pair of eyes can do wonders.
Most of all, congratulations on reaching “the end”.