[Read PART ONE]
After you finish working on your manuscript, you’re going to be on a writer’s high. You’re done! It’s so exciting! All your hard work is sitting before you with tens of thousands of words on the screen.
Through your red-rimmed, sleep-deprived eyes, what you have just completed is the single greatest piece of literary genius the world has ever seen. This book is going to be a best seller, and you, my friend, are going to be rich.
So now what?
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Proofread. Then do it again. And again.
If you are like me, the last thing you want to do after finishing a mammoth project (for instance, a novel) is look at it again. But you have to. The good news, is you don’t have to do it alone. Find outside eyes to go over your work and nitpick it. First recruit some friends, family members, anybody whose opinion on books you respect and trust. These are called Beta Readers, and they will give you great feedback.
They are your first test audience, so ask them to be brutally honest about your story, characters, conflict, etc. and use their feedback to tweak your story during editing. Then (and this is particularly important if you are looking to self-publish), hire a proofreader/editor to go through the book again.
This is an expense, but there are a lot of professional freelancers out there who can give you invaluable feedback and go through your grammar with a fine-toothed comb to help your book put its best face forward. They may also provide more feedback on your book and may lead to further edits.
How much you revamp your novel throughout the process is up to you, but having multiple people look through it and comment will not only give you a sense of how your story will go over with readers but will help it look better to a publisher or agent. It can be hard to hear criticism of something you have worked so hard on, but remember that this is all for the greater good. And when you see all that blood, sweat, and tears in print, it will all be worth it!
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What do you think? I definitely agree that proofreading is essential. Finding a few beta readers is an excellent idea, just make sure you get their honest opinion. It’s going to be hard for a close friend or family member to tell you honestly what they think, especially if what they’re going to offer you is constructive feedback. But constructive, helpful, negative feedback is actually the best kind of feedback because it’s going to ultimately improve your writing!
So, here’s what I suggest:
Make a list of people you could ask to be beta readers. These should be people you trust to offer an honest opinion about your work, which means maybe don’t ask your mom this time around (or ever. Sorry, Mom!). Keep in mind that depending on how long your manuscript is, it will take them weeks or even a few months to read your book. The publishing process takes time, so be patient. I always say you would rather spend more time making sure it’s correct than rushing to print a mediocre book full of errors.
If you don’t have any people you feel would make a good feedback reader, join a writing group to find fellow authors. Search the internet for some bloggers who can do a review or who would be interested in being a beta reader. I recently attended an online webinar with Jordan Rosenfeld, author of Make a Scene, a writing book I discussed in this post. She recommends 2-4 beta readers to start with. Any more than that and you’ll get too much feedback. I know that might sound contradictory, but it’s important to keep in mind that too much feedback will just be confusing and overwhelming.
I hope this series has been helpful to you so far! I have more posts upcoming in this series, so check back. And remember, grammar tips are posted every Tuesday and writing tips posted every Friday.