by Andrea Merrell
Few things are more heartbreaking for a writer than giving birth to a manuscript and handing it over to an agent, editor, or publisher—only to see it killed in its infancy. How do you prevent your prodigy from taking a bullet to the heart? By making sure your manuscript is as clean and professional as possible.
Whether you’re a new writer or a seasoned author, the ability to edit your own material is crucial. Start with the basics (grammar, punctuation, spelling, and usage), and have good tools and reference guides available. Learn proper formatting, and always proofread your work—slowly, aloud, and more than once. This applies to query letters, proposals, manuscripts, and even e-mails.
The best rule of thumb: When in doubt … look it up!
As a writer, there is one thing you can count on: the writing and publishing industry changes constantly. This especially applies to guidelines. That’s why it’s important to check the requirements for each agent, editor, publishing house, website, or contest. There are, however, certain elements that remain the same. Let’s look at a few:
- Hooking the reader
- Setting the scene
- Crafting dialog
- Creating relatable characters
- Showing—not telling
- Creatively using backstory
- Writing Tight
Early on, I learned that the little things truly matter. You may be an incredible wordsmith, able to weave stories that thrill an audience, but those little foxes can cause an otherwise great manuscript to be rejected. Pesky typos, incorrect usage, and bad grammar may mean that an otherwise great book will be murdered in someone’s inbox. Few editors will take the time to weed through a sloppy manuscript to fall in love with your story. What a shame it would be to engrave this epitaph on your file cabinet:
Here lie the remains of my first book.
It never had a chance to show the world how
wonderful it could have been.
(Excerpts taken from Murder of a Manuscript by Andrea Merrell published by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Used by permission.) Now available from Amazon:
Andrea Merrell is a freelance writer and editor living in the beautiful upstate of South Carolina. She is Associate Editor for Christian Devotions Ministries and Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Andrea has led workshops at the Kentucky Christian Writers Conference (KCWC), Writers Advance Boot Camp, and The CLASS Christian Writers Conference in New Mexico. Her work has been published online and in numerous anthologies. Andrea’s next book, Praying for the Prodigal, will be released by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas in 2015. To learn more about her, visit her website: www.andreamerrell.com.