If you’re like most writers, your manuscript has grown from a tight, beautifully-told flight of imaginative fancy into a 600-page monster that no self-respecting editor would read: not even for a fortune. You probably couldn’t convince your own family to read it. But while you’re lagging behind, your bank account is dwindling, because you can’t get paid without publishing. What can you do to get back on track?
If publishing is your business, then it’s time to start treating your manuscript like a project, and managing it just like any other activity that provides you income. Tried and tested ways can help condense the processes to publish. Many of them also decrease your costs, too, and help make the entire ordeal less stressful and more rewarding to boot.
Below are several tips from editing pros to help authors, new and established, handle their manuscript more professionally.
Winnow down your word count
One of the biggest manuscript woes is simply having one that’s too long. Editors of all kinds charge either by the page or by the word, and the longer your manuscript is, the more you’re out of pocket. Critically evaluate your word count. If you’re over 70,000 words or maybe even at just that level, likely you’ve got one novel which just needs to be pared down. Overwriting is common, and if you’re using dozens of pages to write redundantly, you should cut them before ever going to an editor.
If you’re well over 70,000 words, consider finding reasonable points where you can break your manuscript into multiple novels. Sure, you might not have written it that way, but could you add a little here and there to turn your story into two books instead of one? Doing this will allow you to focus on part of your manuscript, publish, receive income, and then work on the following.
Manage your process
Often, there’s more to do than just shooting your manuscript off to editors. You need to manually prune and groom your manuscript once it’s complete, then send it to editors, write your cover copy, complete your revisions, complete a second round of editing. It can be a headache, and often there are elements which you can complete simultaneously. Use project management software like Clarizen or Pressbooks to help keep you on-task and aware of all the different moving parts of the publishing machinery. You’ll be amazed at how much time you’ll save with email reminders and schedules.
Formatting and style
Often the last part of editing your manuscript is formatting for publication. You can usually help reduce the time on this step by having suggested outlines and chapter breaks, and trying to write in your publisher’s recommended style and format. Have two different copies of your manuscript: one for print, and one with special e-reader formatting, as the two are often quite different. For example, e-reader formats usually have a linked table of contents, and have special advertorial sections at the end of the novel which can use html formatting. Taking advantage of those capabilities can help grow your readership and direct readers to your website.
The writing is often the easy part; it’s grooming the manuscript into something sensible and publication-worthy that gives writers anxiety and stress. But there are a few easy tips to help keep you on-task and under-budget when refining and polishing your manuscript.
Making certain that you’re not over-writing, and grooming your manuscript before turning it over to an editor can help you a great deal. Be open to the idea that you might need to break very long manuscripts into multiple novels. And also consider using apps or software to help manage your deadlines and pre-publishing processes, so that you can easily share collateral and keep track of what tasks have been completed…and which still need work. Formatting is usually the last element of readying a manuscript for a publisher, and should be broken down by file type, as often modern publishers need different formats for different venues.
(Clarizen sponsored the above post. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the TeleRead site. Image credit here.)