Thursday, February 7, 2013

Guest Blog -- Editing a Manuscript

Hello everyone.  Today we have a guest blog post from Meghan Ivarsson from Scholar Advisor.  Meghan talks a little about editing a manuscript.  Thanks, Meghan!

How to edit a manuscript

There are several options available to a writer if he wishes to edit his manuscript. Editing may need to be done a certain way if you wish to submit your text to a publisher. Having your text printed by a publisher means you not having to pay the costs of publishing and printing a book that you want to offer and sell to the public. In order to do this you should contact several publishers and ascertain their editing, formatting and submission guidelines.

If you do manage to have your text accepted by a publisher then the publishing costs will be borne by the publisher. In addition, when a writer manages to enter into a contract with a publisher, the writer is normally paid by the latter, who determines the amount of the fee according to pre-established contractual agreements between the two parties. In other cases, you may personally edit the manuscript, but before you do it is a good idea to contact a printer, whom will advise you upon your best options for layout, coverage, format and other parameters, but in this case, publishing costs remain the responsibility of the writer.

Proofread repeatedly until your eyes weep

Hunt for misspellings and typos. A typo can create a perfectly spelt word and plonk it in the wrong place. The transition from reading to writing to reading is an important step. When we write we are encased in writing bubble, and we lose the ability to judge the true quality of our text. The confusion comes from the balance between the pleasure he took in writing and the pleasure that comes from reading it. This is why it is a good idea to proofread your text again in a week so that you can look at it with a colder and more analytical eye.

Don’t trust your friends and family

You can try to hand your manuscript to those with whom you have real confidence, but their input will be faulty for a number of reasons, and you risk your relationship with them. The important thing is not just to rely on their continued support, because they have no vested interest in your success or failure. They may be useful for ideas and encouraging phrases, but you cannot rely on their judgement being sincere or accurate.

Writing is more than just content creation

The value of writing is often much more than the end result. It may be used to experience free thought or make a personal confession, maybe even to engage in a confrontation with oneself. Literary value however is another matter.

Targeting the editor is paramount

Even if you edit your work yourself, if you wish to have your work accepted then it will need to be edited again. Nothing is more exasperating for a publisher to receive a manuscript that does not correspond at all to the spirit of his house. Many aspirants indeed commit the blunder of sending their texts haphazardly. If you want a publisher to become interested in your text, make the effort to get interested in his.

Learn about the specific publishing houses and take the time to browse their books in book stores and libraries. Fairs are also a great way to become familiar with the production of smaller publishers. You can make contact with a publisher and figure out what sort of introduction they prefer, so you can send your manuscript a few days later. But above all, do not make the mistake of soliciting an editor at a trade fair, because they do not come to collect the prose of aspiring writers, they are there to publicize and sell their books.

Follow the guidelines of the publishers

Doing this will also include following certain unspoken guidelines, which you should have discerned from your research to target the editor. For example, some publishers will ask that you edit out any foul language, but your research into their current publications will show you how far to go. Some publishers will accept words such as “Bastard” even if it is used in the expletive sense. Others however will not even accept the word “Hell”, even if it is literally describing the pit of fire. Your research will show you if using the word “Bitch” in the expletive is okay, or if it is completely out of bounds even for describing a female dog.

Edit for the spirit of the publishing house

Again, your research should give you an idea of the spirit of the publishing house. Do they prefer gritty and convoluted text, or do all of their narratives have a happy ending? Are most of their publications filled with some kind of Ork or sword bearing hero? Or do most of their texts aim for exciting the usually inhibited woman? How much fantasy will your publisher accept? And would it help you to edit out some of the more unbelievable aspects of your manuscript? Are there texts mostly negative or positive? Do they seem to have an agenda? Do most of their books push a Green angle or a Republican angle? Could you edit your text so that it leans more heavily in the direction your chosen publisher prefers? E.g. more Green, more republican...

Learn from your editing mistakes

You are bound to make some, and poor editing may be the reason for your repeated rejections. However, you should be aware that publishers retain only 1% of the texts they receive (and they receive a lot). If the refusal is served upon you via a letter or email then it may hold some clues as to any editorial mistakes you made (overly long descriptions, slow pacing, etc). However, publishers do not want any comebacks from their rejection letters, and will know that giving explanations often results in you getting back in touch to dispute their claims.

You can try to get some additional explanations by sending a letter of request. This is your chance to get a professional critique of your work, and despite barrage of mortifying criticism it may evoke, it will nonetheless be useful and constructive for you. Most publishers will ignore you or give you a boilerplate excuse. If, however, the letter indicates that your text has been read carefully, and gives reasons why it has not been successful, stay in there and try your luck with another publisher.

The article was written by Meghan Ivarsson, a Scholar Advisor writer. Scholar Advisor is and educational portal for students by student. If you need help with your college assignment there you can find a lot of essay writing tips.

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