Editors strengthen books in a number of ways, from correcting grammar to developing characters and plot. Although editors do look for typos, if your manuscript is riddled with errors, your editor will need to spend more time fixing your book on that level and may not have as much time before deadline to delve into deeper issues that could benefit your writing. As an editor, it can be frustrating to fix simple errors an author could easily correct. As an author, not fixing those errors could cost you more when having your book edited, if you are paying an editor by the hour.
Spellcheck. An easy way to help your editor help you is to run spellcheck. It seems like that should go without saying, but you’d be surprised at the number of authors who skip this step before submitting a manuscript. Other times an early draft is fairly clean, but errors are introduced in revisions, and the author forgets to use spellcheck. While spellcheck is not foolproof, it does help catch typos, and using it will reduce your editor’s workload, allowing them to focus on bigger issues.
If you are submitting your manuscript to an agent or publisher, not running spellcheck could cost you an opportunity. Those errors could mean the difference between a rejection letter and a request for a full manuscript.
Spaces. Before you share your book with an editor, do a “find and replace” to make sure you only have one space after sentences instead of two. This is another easy fix that will make your editor happy. You should also look through the manuscript as a whole to make sure you didn’t center a paragraph by accident or make some other obvious formatting error.
Consistency. know your characters best, so make sure you’re not calling your protagonist Kelly in chapter three and Karen in chapter seven, leaving your editor to guess which one is correct. If you’re calling a character by her first name, don’t change and start referring to her by her last name—unless this is happening in dialogue. In that case, be clear about who is being addressed or discussed. Maybe one of your characters tends to refer to people by their last names only—that says something about that character’s personality. It also speaks to relationship dynamics if your character refers to people on a first name basis rather than using a formal title like Mr. or Mrs.
Be consistent with spellings and capitalization for character names and other proper nouns like cities. One way to do that is to create a style sheet to share with your editor, providing a list of names, places, and terms unique to the story, as well as notes about relationships between characters. This can be a helpful tool for editors in spotting inconsistencies, especially if you use names that have an uncommon spelling or if you use words from a foreign or made-up language (fantasy novels are notorious for doing this).
Your manuscript doesn’t have to be perfect before you share it with an editor. If it was, we wouldn’t have a job. Still, making our job easier is appreciated, and will allow us to better serve you and help you strengthen your work.
Are you an editor? What do you wish authors would do differently in submitting their work? Are you an author who has worked with an editor? What was your experience like? What advice would you give other authors?
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
MELISSA ESKUE OUSLEY is an award-winning author of young adult fiction. Her first book, Sign of the Throne, won a 2014 Eric Hoffer Book Award and a 2014 Readers' Favorite International Book Award. Her third book, The Sower Comes, won a 2016 Eric Hoffer Book Award. Her fourth book, Sunset Empire, debuted in the bestselling young adult boxed set, Secrets and Shadows. Her new suspense novel, Pitcher Plant, was released May 2017. She has edited fiction for Barking Rain Press and contributes monthly articles on writing, editing, and book marketing to BookDaily.com. She is a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association.