A writer, especially a new writer, is understandably excited and eager to get his/her manuscript to an agent for consideration or self-published. But, it’s imperative you submit writing that shows an agent there’s reason to be interested in you as a promising writer, or make certain it’s ready to self-publish.

As a writer, you are attached to your manuscript—your baby. I get that. As someone who provides services for writers, I get attached too . . . because I care deeply about assisting clients to have better experiences as writers, with their first and subsequent manuscripts.

If you, for whatever reason, don’t use the services of an editor, please let up to three people read through your manuscript and give feedback (and proofread), before you send it to an agent or self-publish it. If this is something you don’t choose to do, or if you do, read your manuscript aloud to yourself—and not at a rapid pace, before you let anyone else read it. You will catch things (hopefully) you didn’t see before and you’ll also hear how it will sound in the minds of readers.

I’m not saying this because it’s what I do, but because it’s a fact: one thing every writer, especially a new writer, needs is a developmental editor s/he trusts. Here’s why—and it’s something from The Creative Penn I wish I’d written:
“My manuscript came back covered in red ink/littered with Track Changes. I’m really upset by the comments. How do I cope with the difficulty of being edited?
Okay, here’s the sad fact: If your editor is not returning a manuscript covered in red ink/littered with Track Changes, you need a new editor. That’s our job. Our number one goal is to make your work look brilliant. We aren’t judging you, we aren’t trying to make you look bad, and we certainly aren’t saying your writing isn’t fabulous. We’re saying: “Hey, good manuscript—here are the things you can/should do to make it even better.” Because that’s what you’re paying us to do.
It’s hard to divorce yourself from the emotional element of producing this creative work, and to begin to view your novel as a product (I know—I used the ‘P’ word) rather than the flesh of your flesh. The editing process, however, is a great place to start doing that. Take a deep breath, recognize that all writers go through this pain, and try to listen objectively to what your editor is saying about your work.”

There are best-selling authors who do a number of revisions before they ever submit a manuscript to their publisher. Some do as many as ten revisions (some do more) before they even consider it submission-ready. And there are those like best-seller Elizabeth George who do all the preparation first, before ever starting the draft. George explained that when the manuscript for her first novel came back from her publisher, it was accompanied by forty or so pages of notes, and nearly all of them addressed character development. So she focused on improving her skill with this. Her second novel came back with around thirty pages of notes that mostly focused on developing setting; so she worked to improve that. She then created a system that allowed her to develop these (and all the scenes) prior to writing the draft because, she said, she wanted to avoid having that level of major revision, as much as possible, ever again. When she submitted her third novel, it was accepted as it was. She’d done the work beforehand and it paid off. (All writers have one or more people read what they’ve written before they send it to an agent, publisher, or self-publish it—or they should.)

Note: No matter how ready you or your editor feels your manuscript is for an agent to consider it, even if the agent loves what you’ve written, s/he may still make suggestions. And if a publisher picks you up as a writer, the editor assigned to you may make suggestions as well. It’s a fact of life in the industry.

After providing services to new writers for going on two decades, I can tell what level of skill and knowledge of the craft the writer has and can then base my recommendations on this. I do what I do not only to show them how to improve their manuscript but also to assist them to improve as a writer, which is what proper guidance should accomplish. Not all writers want this. Some prefer to write and let their editor fix and polish what they wrote, a service that can, at times, border on ghost writing for the editor.

If you’ve yet to experience a revision, it’s a process of clearing out what doesn’t belong, filling in any gaps in plot and or character (or content for non-fiction, which includes memoirs) development, tightening the writing as needed, clearing up the technical matters (spelling, punctuation, etc.), possibly reorganizing the structure, and doing this until everything flows from start to finish. Sending your manuscript to an agent or self-publishing it before you are certain it ALL works is a disservice to you as a writer and the time, energy, and effort you put into your manuscript so far. It’s also a disservice to readers.

Okay, I understand that editing costs, especially developmental editing; and the cost is always a result of the level of service the editor has to provide. The better skilled the writer is the less time involved for the editor. But your editor can, will, or should be able to tell you when your manuscript is ready for either self-publishing or submission to an agent.

Too often, new writers believe they can make one revision to their work, based on their editor’s suggestions from that first viewing, and then deem the manuscript done—in final form—ready to go to an agent or be self-published. This may or may not be the case; it often isn’t. More often than not, one revision just gets the manuscript closer to where it deserves to go.

One of my clients made my suggested revisions, but did not send it to me to check it or to a proofreader before she put it into print. Not only are there major typos (and formatting issues), but some of my notes were left in, as well. This is something that can and should be avoided. Let’s face it: typos happen even in best-sellers, but some things should never be included in your final product, especially your editor’s notes to you.

One of the best things you can do for yourself and your manuscript is find a developmental editor you trust—whose services clearly demonstrate benefit to you as a writer and your work—and then listen to what s/he advises. If you work with an editor you trust, then also trust him or her to advise you as to when your manuscript is ready to go. I’m not saying don’t trust your instincts, but don’t send your submission to an agent or put the manuscript into print before it’s truly ready. You don’t want to overwork a manuscript, but it is never a good or wise idea to be in a rush with it either. Make your manuscript the best you can before you move it forward.

I wish you the best with your writing and progress.

Author's Bio: 

Need a Book Doctor or an incentive to write or complete your manuscript? Let Joyce L. Shafer be your writing coach, developmental editor, or provide a critique. Details about her services at http://editmybookandmore.weebly.com/