CRITIQUE PARTNERS AND GROUPS – new Manuscript Critique series

How do you edit a manuscript so it’s ready to go? 

This is the first blog in our Manuscript Critique series. Our aim is to give you the tools to edit and critique manuscripts more effectively, whether you are a critique partner, a member of a critique group, or working on your own manuscripts.

A frequent writer’s complaint is editors no longer edit. That’s not 100% true in our experience. We acknowledge, however, many editors can’t devote the time it takes to make an early draft ready for publication. Editors tell us they want manuscripts that are “ready to go.”

An editor can improve your work, but don’t rely on him or her to fix basic mistakes. Here are 5 editing and critiquing tips to help you make the content of your manuscript as close to being ready for publication-as possible:

1. Spare us the weather reports. 

Describing the weather might be a safe way to make conversation with a stranger, but it doesn’t make for an engaging read. If the weather matters, you should describe it quickly and move on.

2. Focus on details that add realism like nothing else. 

Not: The subway station was shabby.

But: Near the edge of the platform, a man with knotted hair held out a Dixie cup to no one in particular.

3. Don’t describe what doesn’t need describing. 

We all know what certain things look like. Describe an object only if it differs from what we’d expect.

4. Think of walk-on characters as furniture.

A walk-on character might be a cab driver, a waiter, or a bank teller. They might help move the story forward, but probably don’t appear again or have any real weight in the book. Keep up storytelling momentum by omitting their descriptions. Walk-on characters almost never need describing.

5. Use the five senses when you can, though not all at once.

Characters don’t just see and hear; they feel, smell, and taste, too. Using all five senses will give your story realism and will help your readers lose themselves in your book. Be careful not to overdo it, though, which can lead to the opposite effect, creating something that reads more like a writing exercise than a finished book.

Working with an editor provides writers with an opportunity to take their work to a higher level by addressing structural and thematic issues, as well as making the writing more engaging. To make the most of an editor’s limited time, use these tips to help make your manuscript the best it can be for submission.