One of the many hats I wear is Acquisitions Editor for Curiosity Quills Press. I really like this job! I’ve seen a lot great stories come through. There are so many people creating wonderful worlds and coming up with unique plots that I’m continually amazed at the ingenuity of my fellow authors (and you are an author, whether or not you’re published!).
However, one unfortunate trend I’ve seen is for people to send in unedited manuscripts. People, I know that we’re a small press, but that doesn’t mean that a) we’re any less professional than anyone else and b) that you should present a less than professional ‘face’ to us.
That said, I do realize that sometimes, especially for novice writers, the idea of editing is daunting. Overwhelming. Fear inspiring.
Deep breath. There. You ready? I’m going to show you three sites that will help you learn some of the basic steps you need to take before you send in that manuscript to anyone – Curiosity Quills, your dream agent, ABNA submissions, whomever. (Actually it’s four sites, but more on that later!) Used together their advice on how to tame and clean up the beast that your manuscript may have become covers the more important points.
This article from Writer’s Resource Center discusses how to ‘Get Rid of Ugly Wordiness’. The bullet points (be sure to click link for full explanation on how to accomplish each!):
- Eliminate repetition
- Eliminate unnecessary words (more on that in the next two links too!)
- Eliminate backstory
- Eliminate anything that doesn’t reveal character or move the plot forward
Most writers can significantly shorten their manuscript simply by eliminating extraneous adverbs, adjectives, gerunds, and passive verbs, i.e. things you don’t need anyway. If you cut 10 words per page in a 350-page manuscript, you’ve already shortened it by 3,500 (unnecessary) words.
Miss Gardner has specific points as well as a list of ‘words to watch for’ to help you clean up your manuscript.
So you have your list of ‘words to watch for’, but how do you actually go about changing your sentences to eliminate them? This article takes some of the most common words and shows you examples of how to rework sentences.
In addition you might want to check out Autocrit http://www.autocrit.com/. It’s not one of my top three suggestions because, in order to use it effectively, you need to use it at the paid subscription level, something not everyone can afford.
Now doing these things doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to be accepted by anyone, but it does mean you’re presenting a more polished manuscript. And that is just more polished. But by no means does it mean you’re ready to go and publish your piece yourself. Heck even people who are strong editors need to have someone else lookover their work! (Here’s a great article by Barbara O’Neal, who’s been writing and published for over twenty years and works as an editor herself, on The Value of Editors: http://writerunboxed.com/20018/ – actually Writers Unboxed is a great site for any number of articles!)
Doing these initial edits will help us slush readers, I mean Acquisition Editors, see your story more clearly. And that can be the difference between ‘it needs a little work, let’s consider it’ and ‘it needs a lot of work, so it’s a no’. And it it’s a ‘yes’ our editors will help you with the final steps you need to get your story ready for publication. Then, next thing you know your book will be out and published.
But first, you’ve got to do the initial edits.
To find out more about what Alison is looking for check out this blog post: http://curiosityquills.com/alison-nee-heller-acquisitions-editor-wants-your-ms/
If you’re interested in learning more about Curiosity Quills Press take advantage of their huge 99 cent Luck o’the Irish Sale. More information on the sale, as well as the author giveaways will be posted here on 3/17: http://sharonbayliss.blogspot.com/
Alison can be found on the web as her writing alter ego, Ellie Heller, at www.elliewrites2.com, @Elliewrites2 and on facebook as Ellie Heller Author.