IP Writing Tips: Decoding the Jargon: Polishing your Manuscript

So you’ve written a book. You’ve even gotten some readers to look at it. If you’re unfortunate, those readers are friends and family, who will pull their punches at best. If you’re very lucky, they will be expert readers, and possibly even professional critics or authors themselves.

When you get their notes back, for what they’re worth, you read through and make changes. That’s polishing.

But what a lot of people don’t know about polishing is that the more you work it, the better it gets. One revision isn’t enough. It isn’t ever enough. You deserve to put out the very best book that’s in you! And like a fine piece of antique furniture, the finish is everything!

That means a lot of work. Take the French Polish technique used on furniture or example. It involves shellac, mineral oil, pumice and solvent, all in repeated stages, over numerous applications. A lot of elbow grease goes into that fine luster.You don’t want your book to be like a wobbly Ikea shelf, do you? It’s a work of art. Not just anybody can make your book. In fact, no one else can.

Here are some tips to help you cover all the polishing basics:

Read it aloud! This will definitely help with the rest.Pay careful attention to your prose. Watch for word repetition, poor and confusing sentence structure, accidental rhymes, homonyms and your personal common mistakes.

See the big picture. Look at chapter length, and the dramatic points at which each chapter breaks. Does the book flow right? Are there sections of heavy drama and action that seem bogged down? Cut away the excess. Is a certain revelation made too early to maintain suspense? Push it back. Does the ending really satisfy? Make certain it does!

Let it rest. At some point, leave the project alone for a while. Write a short story or some articles in the meantime. Go back to it in a few weeks, or a few months, and see it with fresh eyes. You’ll find common errors and plot problems easier this way!

Get professional help. You really need three people to help you finish the job, in addition to your printer. A content editor will help with plot holes, character development, and flow. A line editor fixes grammatical problems, spelling errors, and may notice a lot of little details that need to be addressed. The final editor, a proofreader, goes through your manuscript with the proverbial fine-tipped comb in search of every lingering mistake. You may have friends with the skills to do these jobs, and some professional editors are excellent across the board. That said, be sure to have at least three pairs of eyes check off on your final revision. It can be a pain, but it’s worth it!

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