Quick and Simple Ways to Polish Your Manuscript

When you’re getting ready to contact an agent, a publisher, or an editor, there are some quick and simple ways to ensure your manuscript looks its best and, thus, makes a good first impression.

  1. Use Microsoft Word. This industry works in .doc, and while you can convert a Pages file, the intricacies (like formatting) can sometimes get lost in translation.
  2. Type a single space after the end of a sentence. Some of us grew up with two, but the standard today is one.
  3. Stick to simple, easy-to-read 12-point font. No handwriting-type fonts or teeny text. Both are too hard on the eyes.
  4. Exchange all caps for italics. If one of your characters is yelling, format the dialogue in italics for emphasis (“Like this!”).
  5. Run spellcheck. It’s not going to catch everything, but you will be in better shape than when you started.
  6. Give it one last read through. By the time you’ve completed your manuscript, you’re likely sick to death of working on it. But because you know what the text is supposed to say, your eyes skip over what’s actually there—meaning words are probably missing, character names might be switched around, and bits of old story are likely mixed in with the new. So take a few days (even employing a friend or two) and go slowly over every line. Trust me: what you think you’ll find is likely very different from what’s actually there.
  7. Finally, don’t make big decisions at 3 a.m. Why is it that things always appear worse in the middle of the night? If you have an idea, a worry, or a decision about your manuscript that comes to mind when the house is dark and the moon is up, write it down, sleep on it, and look at it again in the light of day.

Have any questions, comments, or other suggestions? Leave them below!

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