Not So Fast!
You probably thought that you were finished writing once you had that manuscript in hand, huh? Wrong! There are still plenty of tips and tools out there to help make sure you don’t go “oops!” after you’ve clicked the “publish now” button. (This isn’t a real threat. You can always re-upload your manuscript to the printers!)
In Part 1 we covered some best practices to get you to your manuscript. In Part 2 we are going to dig deep to make sure your novel looks and reads as professional as possible. The proverbial “fine-toothed comb”, if you will. You are now going to walk the fine line between confidence and cowardice; not rushing to smash that mf “publish” button while also not being too afraid to ever release it. Just apply the tips in this section that suit your needs and you’ll be good as gold! (Cheap simile, but at least I didn’t use it in my novel!)
Even though you’re not going the direction of traditional publishing, you still have access to professional and semi-professional publishers. Yes, your draft-readers helped you get to this point, but some may want an experienced outsider’s opinion. Hiring an editor is just a Google search away, but below are a few of the popular options.
WARNING: This WILL be expensive.
BookBaby is a full service self publishing company. We will talk more about them in the Choosing A Printer section. For now, I will just talk about their editing services. If you visit their website you will see that they will edit everything from your query letter to your entire novel. As of today (4/21/22), the price of proofreading a 300 page fiction novel is $900, while the price of line-editing the same book is $3000.
Reedsy is more of an outsourcing company that connects writers with professionals in the biz. You need to create an account before you can even view their services (which is a bit annoying), but after that you can scroll through editors, cover designers (more on this later), advertisers, illustrators, and more. The website is solid and the services have great reviews. I can’t speculate the cost, however, since you will need to request a quote from the individual professionals.
*Note: Reedsy will bombard your inbox with emails after signing up so feel free to peruse their “unsubscribe” options!
You will see the word “Kindlepreneur” pop up A LOT throughout your self publishing journey, and for good reason. He (Dave) is the one guy who probably understands the Amazon KDP (more on this later) algorithm better than anyone else. To his credit, he offers a lot of good information for free, but he’s also a business man and makes money by connecting you with his affiliates. Long story short, he does have a great list of book editors up on his site.
Keep in mind that there are zillions of editing options out there and nearly all of them will cost you money. There’s no concrete way to know how “valuable” the feedback you purchased will be, and that same cash could be more useful elsewhere.
It can be argued that full on editing is not quite as valuable as it once was. I both agree and disagree. On one hand, the market becomes more competitive and more demanding every day and you need to get your product on the shelves as soon as possible. On the other hand, you don’t want to be one-star-reviewed off the map. You’re in luck, however, because there is a happy, and cheaper, medium.
Personally I have never, and likely will never, pay for an editor. As I suggested in Part 1, I trust that my proofreaders will point out the glaring, unreadable mistakes. I am at the point in my career where I have enough confidence in my storytelling that I don’t think I need a stranger to tell me to re-write an entire act because they don’t like it. Trust your story. YOU wrote it.
So, since we don’t want to drop 3000 big ones on an editor, we must do it ourselves. The key is to implement habits that hold ourselves accountable. Below are the processes and considerations I go through to mitigate my mistakes.
Grammar, Typos, & Goofs
First off, I know exactly what you’re thinking: Grammarly. Well don’t. I’ve tried it and it’s just not feasible. After that program finishes sending its spiders all over your novel you’re left with a tangled web of different colored underlines and wild suggestions. Best to keep your page as white as possible.
Now that that’s out of the way, here’s the real advice: CTRL+F. This will be your best friend when searching for mistakes. I encourage you to make a note of your commonly misspelled words (everyone is different) on my Self Publishing Checklist so you can go through your manuscript and CTRL+F the heck out of it. In addition, for the sake of the guide, I will share a handful of my own common goofs below.
- [space][space] –> [space]
- teh –> the
- it’s –> its (its is almost always “its”, btw)
- and and –> and
- you –> your (or vice versa)
- defence –> defense
- Fcition –> Fiction (Did this on a cover once. OOPS!)
- Femanine –> Feminine (and words like it that should be “i” instead of “a”)
- How many times did I use “just,” or “seems/ed,” or “almost,” or “then”? Too repetitive? Spruce up those sentences!
- I will add more as I come across them!
Blocking Writer’s Block
Are you stuck on an excerpt or paragraph or chapter that feels a little dry? It happens to all of us. Here are a couple of tips to help make your writing style a bit more engrossing.
- Death to exposition. Nothing is more boring than being “talked at”. J.R.R. Tolkien can get away with this, you can’t. Your reader should be making world/lore discoveries alongside your characters.
- When describing your character doing something physical, add a second “phase” to the action. It helps the reader follow the motions in their head while also making you look like you know what you’re talking about. In my short story The Last Drop, instead of “she turned a wrench,” I say this:
- “That’s odd,” Mender grunted, turning a wrench. The old nut broke free and she began turning it by hand. “Because they sure don’t mind me fixing all of their shit.”
- The reader can feel “turning it by hand” because they have also done that action at some point in their life.
- Keep the momentum going. Maybe you’re starting your chapter by saying your characters are driving to the building. Does anything significant happen during the drive? No? Then start the chapter with them already in the building, perhaps with dialogue of them complaining about the car ride while their coats are getting checked. Little adjustments like that go a long way with keeping a plot moving while still delivering all of the information.
- Use metaphors that are appropriate for your setting. My novel Man, Kind is set in a post apocalyptic Colorado. Everything has long been dried up and dead. My characters have never seen an apple, so it wouldn’t make sense for me to say something is as red as an apple, right? Readers will notice these immersive details and will appreciate the dedication to your craft.
- Take a walk. Seriously. When you’re stuck, just step away from the keyboard and take a little walk, eat dinner, play a video game, whatever. You’ll have that AHA! soon enough.
Plot, Setting, & Character Development
You know your plots, setting, and characters better than anyone else, which is why you should also be harder on yourself than anyone else. If something in your world doesn’t make sense, or if your character says something they never actually would, nuke it. I see this far too often in modern day “fast” fiction, movies, and tv shows. Something obscure will happen that completely ruins the narrative just to move the plot forward. Not only do I no longer care about everything you’ve set up, I’ve also just been told that it didn’t matter. I know you wanted that dragon flying in and out of space-time and eating planets, but if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.
These are more just words of caution than actual “how to” advice, but I felt they worth including.
And So It Has Been Written
Draft’s done, editing’s done, manuscript’s done. You hold in your hands/hard drive the world’s next bestseller. But how do you get to the point where you can sell it? Well, you need a cover. A damn good one, too. Head on over to Part 3 where we talk covers and illustrations that will grab attentions.