In Part Three, I discussed my drafting and editing process while writing Midnight House. Needless to say, this part of the process takes time and should be taken seriously by anyone with an eye for publishing their novel. The more professional you take the process, the better the result.
This time, I wanted to talk about getting feedback, finalizing your manuscript, and getting it ready to publish.
An Objective Outsider
Your manuscript is complete. You’ve done multiple drafts. You have painstakingly gone through each sentence, paragraph, and chapter to make sure they help tell the story you want to tell. Now, it’s time to let someone else read your work.
Finding a feedback partner is crucial to getting effective and objective feedback on your work. Ideally, this should be someone familiar with your work, someone you trust to give you honest and constructive feedback, and hopefully not a family member.
I was fortunate enough to have a former co-worker become my feedback partner for Midnight House. He was among the first people to buy The Field, and he really enjoyed the book and the characters. When I asked him to be my feedback partner for book two, he was more than happy to help.
If you have a few people in mind who haven’t read anything of yours, put some feelers out and see if they would be willing to read the first few chapters and give you feedback. If one gets back to you with the constructive criticism you need to improve the book, you should consider paying them to read the whole manuscript.
Yes. You should pay someone for their time when it comes to reading your manuscript. This helps to ensure they won’t put it off and gives them an incentive to get back to you with their feedback.
You also want to make sure that you give them specific things to focus on so they have a goal in mind as they begin to read. Do you want them to focus on the main character’s story arc? Do you want them to check for story continuity? Is the book too graphic? Is there anything that could be cut that slows down the pace of the story? Giving your feedback partner something to actively search for will help them stay engaged.
Once they have finished, schedule a phone call, Zoom meeting, or face-to-face (if available in your area), and let them speak first. If they have questions about things that are unclear, make a note of them. What did they like? What didn’t they like? What stood out to them? What wasn’t effective? Make sure you take notes and ask them for any notes they may have written down as they read your manuscript.
All of this is valuable information.
Remember, they are not attacking you or your work. They have the same goal as you: to make the manuscript stronger. Take their notes and feedback and apply them to a new manuscript draft if you agree with what they have to say. Once you’ve made the changes, ask them to reread it.
All of this will aid in making your final draft stronger and more engaging to future readers.
Editing on a Budget
The good news: Editing services exist. The bad news: They can be rather pricey for an indie author on a budget. Some charge between $7 and $10 a page, which can be pretty expensive if you have a 500-page manuscript.
If you can do this, great. If you can’t, consider alternatives. I use Grammarly, which can help you with spelling, grammar, sentence structure, and other writing aspects to help improve your manuscript. It’s about $150 a year, and I have found it to be an invaluable tool in my writing process.
I copy and paste one chapter into the program and work through it slowly to make sure that what I want to say and how I want to say it is still in my voice but that mechanical issues are resolved to make the writing clearer and more professional.
You can do this at any phase in the drafting process, but I did it between feedback drafts on Midnight House. It’s amazing how much we overlook when we are invested in the story. I highly recommend Grammarly as a writing tool if you’re on a budget.
Ready? Set? Publish?
Once you are satisfied with what you’ve written, your feedback partner has assisted with giving you notes to make the manuscript better, and you’ve done some fine-tuning to the entire work as a whole, it’s time to consider the next steps.
I know I’m in a place where it’s time to move on when the story begins to fade from my mind. If I exhausted all story possibilities, my brain moves on to other ideas and projects. This is a good thing. It means that you have done all you can for your story. You have given it all the attention needed to be the best it can be.
It’s time to finalize things. If you are 100% satisfied with your manuscript, save it with “_FinalDraft” after the title.
Then, I would strongly urge you to get it copyrighted through the U.S. Copyright Office. It’s about $65, but you will have an official Copyright registration number, and your manuscript will be protected.
Your manuscript is done, finalized, and copyrighted. So, let’s get it on the road to publication. In Part Five, the final post of this series, we’ll talk about the indie publishing process, marketing, and other aspects of getting your manuscript out in a professional form.