One of the biggest tasks for any one involved in bringing a novel to print is editing. For some publishing houses, it is the bane of their existence. It does little to write the next great American novel if the editing is lacking. Yet there are things you, as a writer, can do to get your manuscript into the best shape possible. Hydra editor Josiah Davis offers up some advice in the first of a five-part series on getting your novel ready for the editor by being consistant.
Part One – Consistency!
As you look at the title of this article series, you might be thinking, “Getting my manuscript ready for editing? But isn’t it the editor’s job to catch all the mistakes?” Well, yes and no.
Over the past three years I’ve spent as a professional editor I’ve seen, and learned, a lot of different things. I think we need to take a step back here and make sure we’re all on the same page on what exactly an editor is. Is an editor someone who just finds all the typos in your book? Definitely, but that’s just scratching the surface of what one can offer to you. An editor is someone who’s going to give your book a professional set of eyes after you’re sure that your manuscript is perfect. Yep, that’s right. Perfect. If you slam out your first draft of a book and send it off to your editor, sure they’ll be able to catch all the silly little mistakes that will fill your document, but wouldn’t you prefer they focus their efforts on the real issues of the book?
Like I said, an editor is plenty capable of going through your document and finding all of the little mistakes, but the more you polish your manuscript before you send it to someone, the more they’ll be able to polish, rather than just fix. Let’s face it, editing isn’t cheap. So, wouldn’t you want the time you’re paying for to go into things you can’t fix on your own?
So, you may ask, “How do I get my manuscript ready for editing?” Well, you’ve come to the right article series! This is going to be a five-part set of articles discussing the main, easily fixable mistakes I see authors of all levels make.
The one we’ll address here is consistency. What do I mean by that? Well, readers are smart, and readers are perceptive. If you address a character at one point as the “The Shadow King,” then you better be sure you use that name, with that capitalization, at every single other point within the book. The second you break your consistency, you pull the reader out of the book. Remember, people read fiction for the immersion, to lose themselves in the story and characters. Nothing breaks the immersion more than reminding the reader that they are, in fact, reading.
This consistency applies to any words that are unique to your book, whether it’s capitalization for political titles, specific hyphenated items, or even just variable spellings for words. Want some examples? Well, do you write the word U.S., or US? Do you use the word OK, or Okay? Did you capitalize any word for effect that wouldn’t normally be? Regardless of the genre you’re writing, you should have a pad of paper next to you so you can write down any unique elements within your book. You may think you can just remember them all as you go. You can’t. Your mind is already working in overtime to come up with a unique plot and believable characters. Why create more effort for yourself than is needed? Just keep a written list next to you as you write of how you address the various characters/items in your book. You’ll thank yourself for it later.
Once you’ve finished your initial draft, do a search through the document of any possible iteration you may have done of the words on your list, and then fix them accordingly. This is a quick and simple way to make sure that all your terms line up, which both makes your editor’s life easier, but also lets them focus their attentions on other, more-hidden, things you may have missed.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for part two!
About Josiah Davis:
Josiah Davis, of JD Book Services, is a professional freelance book editor who’s been working in the publishing industry for the past three years. In addition to working with various self-published authors, Josiah has also edited a number of books for Hydra Publications, including Stuart Thaman’s For We Are Many, and Rebekah McAuliffe’s Gears of Golgotha. When he’s not editing, he can most likely be found smoking a cigar by the river and reading Brandon Sanderson or Douglas Hulick. Josiah’s work can be found on his site at www.jdbookservices.com