On Editing: Prepping Your Manuscript for Editing

Don’t Make Your Editor’s Job Harder

Guest post by Tiff Nichols

preparing your manuscript for editing

© Igorabond | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

As a freelancer, I edit all types of writing, but my work consists mainly of editing novels. It’s a lengthy process. In fact, I wish all authors understood just how much work goes into editing their manuscripts.

I will admit that one of my pet peeves is receiving a manuscript that has obviously not seen any part of the editing process.

“But the editing part is YOUR job,” you might say.

Yes, that’s true. Editing is my job. But quality is important to me, and if you want the highest quality from me, you need to do your part as well.

My husband asked me yesterday, “Why don’t you just run a spellcheck? Wouldn’t that be faster?” He’s an engineer. Of course he looks for the quickest, most efficient way to do something. Alas, that’s not how the editing process works.

I don’t just run a spellcheck and then scan the manuscript for errors. I do a thorough reading of the novel, keeping an eye out for technical errors as well as issues with content. If I just did a quick read-through, I might not process the fact that Sally was wearing a blue shirt in paragraph two and a red shirt in paragraph five. It’s important to pick up on minor errors like this. Readers do, and they are extremely quick to point them out.

So what can you do to ensure that your manuscript is ready to be placed in your editor’s capable hands?

First, be absolutely sure that your book is finished. Please don’t send it to your editor mere minutes after typing the final sentence of your first draft. Let it sit for a while. Let it stew. Then go back to it and read it from page one. You’re going to want to make changes. Do it now. Your editor doesn’t want to see a slew of emails that say things like, “Oh, I forgot I wanted to add this paragraph on page nine!”  The pages you send out for editing should be your final draft. That said, no editor is going to say you’re not allowed to add something in if you’re hit by a stroke of genius later on down the road.

Once you’re satisfied with what you have, please—please—USE SPELLCHECK. That will take care of the simple typos and misspelled words that build up and take away from the time I spend with your novel.

Before you send your manuscript, make sure to format it correctly. This means that the font should be something simple like Times New Roman, usually around 12 point. It seems to be easiest on the eyes. Flashy fonts are a pain. Double-spacing your draft can help as well. Editing may be done electronically these days, but it can still make it easier to see what errors have been marked and corrected without things getting too crowded. Save your word as a .doc in Word to make things easy. If you don’t have Word, other writing programs (such as Pages for Mac) have the ability to export your document into a Word document.

Lastly, you should provide some basic information for your editor. Include a short summary and a word count. It’s also important to notify the editor of any special information. For instance, maybe Billy explains string theory on page thirty-four, but he gets it wrong on purpose.

All in all, a freelance editor like me is happy to see new clients. I’m not going to turn you away because you didn’t double-space your manuscript or didn’t give me a summary. If I have questions, I’ll ask; however, prepping your manuscript before sending it really helps move the process along faster.

About the Author

Tiffany is a freelance editor and writer in Charleston, South Carolina. Her vices include coffee, wine, Turner Classic Movies, and being lazy. Sometimes she brings home stray dogs. Her husband humors her whims, bless his soul. Check out her website, Write Edit Repeat, for information on her editing and writing services.








About Jen Barry

Author of Young Adult novels. Reside in Nashville with my husband, a gorgeous Irishman. Drink too much coffee. Online way too much.

6 thoughts on “On Editing: Prepping Your Manuscript for Editing

  1. WyndyDee says:

    Well said! Agreed! Oh, did I say well said?! *high five*

    And this goes for submitting to a publisher. If you want the best chance at getting signed, you need to put your best effort forward and don’t send the FIRST draft and please, please use spell check! Though, spell check will not catch misused words, so that is on you to catch if you can during the second and third read through before sending on to the publisher or editor.


  2. Ensis says:

    I have a followup question: Do you, as an editor, feel hiring a freelance editor can help one’s chances of mainstream publication, or is it better to self edit and use an in-house editor on the off chance you get picked up by a big-six company?

    • Tiff says:

      I do feel that having a freelance editor look at your work before you submit it to an agent or mainstream publisher is a good idea. Even though I’m an editor, I always have someone else check my work before I submit anything major. A second set of eyes will catch those little things you might not think of. You can even ask an editor if they have special rates for reading the first chapter of your novel and giving you their opinion on the opening. A publisher or agent will usually ask for a certain number of pages if they’re interested. You want those first pages to really stand out and catch the publisher’s attention. It’s also a good idea to have an editor look over your inquiry letter before you send it out. Rates for those smaller jobs are usually much less than they are for complete manuscripts. 🙂

  3. korimiller says:

    Reblogged this on Kori Miller Writes and commented:
    Useful info.

  4. […] On Editing: Prepping Your Manuscript for Editing […]

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