How to Prepare Your Manuscript for an Editor
Updated: Jan 12
You’ve written your book, and you’re ready to send it off to an editor. Great job!
You’re going to be in close contact with your editor, so I’ve put together some manuscript suggestions that'll start your author-editor relationship off on a cozier level. Many of these changes can easily be made by your editor, but take it from me, receiving a manuscript in a reasonably readable order allows us to better focus on the big item—your story.
Make an Outline
Whether or not you use an outline during your writing process is totally up to you, of course, but it will be beneficial for your editor to at least have a simple outline or summary of your chapters. Referring to a handy outline is a great way for them (and you) to catch the huge, glaring errors in any story line inconsistencies.
Create a Character Description Sheet
Even if you don’t actually plan on describing all of the physical traits of your characters, it’s important for your editor to know their major characteristics. If Donnie is a nerdy pocket-protector-wearing accountant in chapter two, then he’s a hunky construction worker in chapter seven, your editor might cry. But, if they can refer to a character description sheet, they’ll at least be able to determine where Donnie actually works.
Break it Up
Unless you’re hiring a developmental editor (see below) who’ll be making a lot of changes for you, don’t make your editor guess where you want each chapter to end. Title the chapters. Number the chapters if you can’t think of a title. The titles, the cut-offs—they all might change later on, but the chapter breaks will give both you and your editor a better idea about the flow of your story.
Microsoft Word. Times New Roman. 12 pt. Black. Double-spaced.
Please, and thank you.
Only One Space at the End of a Sentence
I know . . . I was also taught to put two spaces after the period, but times and rules change.
Don't Break Your Back Over Formatting
It’s nice of you to add curly-swirly designs and fonts, but really, it’s unnecessary, and it will all likely disappear once we get our hands on it. Editors typically like working with a plain document. The fancy stuff will be added when the designer comes into play. But, do make sure your text is left-aligned.
Know Who You Need to Hire
Do you know the difference between a developmental editor, a copy editor, and a proofreader? Let me explain:
You need a developmental editor if you’ve written your story the best you can, but it’s a big mess. The story line is twisted, and no matter what you do, you simply cannot get it to make sense. You need direction, your story needs marketing direction, and you’re willing to continue writing and be open-minded about making changes your editor might (will) suggest.
You need a copy editor if you know your manuscript is pretty darn good, but you need someone to check grammar, punctuation, word usage, clarity issues, possible factual inaccuracies, libel, etc. (Yeah, copy editors do a lot.) They are a fresh pair of eyes to polish your story and catch mistakes you’ve missed. Your copy editor will make sure that your main character—who has a fear of public speaking and has worked up to this moment for seven chapters—will give her first career-changing presentation at a “board” meeting . . . not at a “bored” meeting.
You need a proofreader if a copy editor has already worked his/her magic, but you need to make sure these very important items have been thoroughly reviewed: page numbers are sequential and they match the table of contents, the font is consistent throughout the entire book, chapters all start on the right-hand page, photo captions are correct—all the bookish stuff. A proofreader should also check for last-minute typos or spelling errors.
We all want the most bang for our buck. You wouldn’t let your dog play in mud and sticker burrs right before his grooming appointment, right? You know it’ll take longer to groom him, which means you’ll be charged extra, and you might get dirty looks. Think of your precious manuscript as a dirty dog. Clean it up, brush out the knots, and make it look somewhat presentable before it gets fully groomed and ready for show.
Note: Most editors have their own stylistic preferences, and they might tell you what they are beforehand, but you really can’t go wrong by following these guidelines—they’ll make the entire process run just a little smoother.
Do you have a story or manuscript that needs editing?
Let's make magic happen.