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How Do I Get My Novel
Ready for an Editor?

It’s such a relief!

After months or even years of hard graft you feel your novel is as good as you can possibly get it.

You’ve spent what seems like ages addressing all the big picture issues such as plot and characterisation (possibly with the help of a development edit or manuscript critique) and carried out a number of revisions to polish your initial raw material into something of which you’re truly proud.

Naturally you’re very excited at the prospect of sending it off to an agent to see if you can get your big break as an author.

You know, though, that issues such as spelling, grammar and punctuation aren’t your strong point and so decide to invest in some outside help in the form of a line editor or copy editor to get your work into tip-top shape.

But while your decision to call in the cavalry is probably the right one in this case, there’s still a lot you can do yourself before pressing the send button.

This does beg the question of why bother? After all, you’re going to pay good money to an editor to use their professional expertise to fix all the issues.


Why not leave them to it while you get on with writing your next book?

There are two very good reasons for getting your novel into the best possible shape before sending it out to an editor.

  1. Many editors (myself included) ask to see a sample of your manuscript before agreeing to work on it. This is to help them assess the amount of time they will need to spend editing your work (and thus the price they will need to quote you) and to judge if it is a project that appeals to them. The better shape you can get your book into yourself, the more likely an editor is to take it on – and the less it is likely to cost you.

  2. Editors are only human and even the very best can only focus on so many things at one time. The more time and effort they are having to put into correcting basic issues that you could have dealt with yourself, the more likely it is they will miss a small error on the same page.


In short, taking a little time to do what you can yourself at this stage makes it more likely that you will be able to hire the editor you want at a price you like – and that the editing process will be more efficient.

Let’s take a look at what you can do to improve your manuscript before sending it out.


Take a break…

Or – as Sir Humphrey in Yes, Prime Minister would say – engage in ‘masterful inactivity’.

There are two reasons for this:

  1. You’ve earned it!

  2. After living and breathing your book for so long you’re incredibly close to it, and this can make it much harder to spot errors – especially minor ones. You may end up reading what you think you’ve written rather than what’s actually on the page.


Put your words in Word

Using Microsoft Word is the biggest single favour you can do yourself in terms of facilitating a smooth editing process. Many editors use a range of special programs called macros to aid them in ensuring consistency in areas such as UK or US English, the spelling of names, capitalisation, hyphenation and the use of the serial comma. These macros are an invaluable editing tool but they are designed to work in Word – and so it’s vital that you do too. 


Altogether now

Your editor will really appreciate it if you send them your manuscript in one file rather than breaking it down by chapters. The macros mentioned above have the potential to ensure consistency – but can only do it across one file. By putting all of your novel in one document, you are helping the editor to help you.


Make your novel easy on the eye!

Black text on a white background is the standard way of presenting a novel - and anything else may be off-putting for the reader.

You might have an excellent creative reason for using a colourful combination. The risk is that an editor finds it so distracting that they do not persevere long enough to find out what it is.


Plain and simple font – not like this!

As with colour choice, opting for a font that is easy to read will help ensure you make an early good impression on whoever’s reading it.

Fonts such as Times New Roman, Ariel and Calibri all make for an easy read and should prevent your editor having to pay an urgent visit to Specsavers!

The way to make your work stand out is through the strength of your writing – intriguing plot, compelling characters, sharp dialogue – rather than by superficial means such as colour and font.

I hope that’s all clear!

Rogue spacing in your novel

A common error even among seasoned writers is inadvertently including some extra spaces between words. When you’re engrossed in what you’re writing, it’s easy to accidently press the space bar twice and this kind of subtle error can be hard to spot.

Luckily this is an easy problem to fix – as long as you have followed my advice and written in a Word document!

  • Click on Home on the top tool bar

  • Select Replace on the right-hand side.

  • Type a double space into the Find what box

  • Type a single space into the Replace with box

  • Click Find Next

  • Click Replace to resolve each spacing issue and move on to the next


While clicking Replace All is a quicker way of working, I advise against it. It’s possible there may be some extra spacing that you want to keep in, and so looking at each issue individually allows you to remain in control. In addition, using Find Next will allow you to correct areas where there are more than two spaces.

Contents page in your novel

If you’re planning to have a contents page at the front of your book, it’s a good idea to leave this until later in the production process. Some of the chapter headings may change after input from the editor while the page numbers will be different following the design stage.

A contents page at an early stage in the process may be creating unnecessary work for the editor – and unnecessary expense for you.


Layout of your novel

Even before they begin to absorb the words you’ve written, an editor will have taken in the layout of the page and used it to form an impression of how professionally written your book is. Getting the basic rules right is a simple way of making a positive impression.

  • Indent all paragraphs, apart from when starting a new chapter or section.

  • Start a new section within a chapter when the narrative moves to a new location.

  • Use three asterisks to denote a new section. Some authors simply use a blank line but editors and proof-readers may be unsure about whether this was done in error.

  • Start each chapter on a new page and ensure that chapter numbering is correct.

  • There’s no need to number your pages. The editor will use the display in the bottom left corner of the screen.


Pictures and images in your novel

As I’ve mentioned it’s very important to supply all the text to the editor in one file to enable them to use macros.

In the case of pictures and images, however, it’s much better to supply these in a separate folder than to place them within the text. There are two reasons for this:

  1. High resolution pictures take up a lot of storage space which can lead to delays each time the editor saves the document or when they send it back to you.

  2. The picture may get relocated as the editor makes amends and comments in the text – causing problems later in the production process.


Instead of inserting the pictures, indicate clearly in the text where each picture is to go (XXX INSERT IMAGE 1 HERE XXX)  and ensure the number matches that in the picture file.


Getting your novel ready for an editor: conclusion

It is perfectly understandable that writers want to send out their work as soon as they’ve finished it. The old saying ‘More haste less speed’ applies here, though. A little time spent getting your manuscript into shape is likely to increase your chances of success – and save you some money!

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