Friday, February 28, 2020

When Is It Time?

Chris Pepple    @ChrisPepple16

Award-winning author with six published books. She is also a freelance writer, manuscript consultant, and editor.

As a writer, I know that I’m not perfect. No one is. Unfortunately, very few of us can catch our own mistakes. After 20+ years as a writer and 10+ years as a freelance editor and manuscript consultant, you would think I wouldn’t need someone to look over my own manuscript. I do, though. I still make mistakes in grammar and even leave out words in a sentence at times. Computerized programs don’t always catch the types of mistakes I make. When I try to proofread my own work, I think I know what it says instead of seeing what I actually put down on paper. I always hope that others catch my mistakes before I go to press with an article, a poem, or a book.

When I speak to writing groups, I am often asked if all writers really need a proofreader. My answer is always the same. Even seasoned writers need someone to check behind us. The second question I often get involves the timing of when to ask someone to read through your manuscript. That answer often varies. If you are struggling with the flow of your book and wondering if you are on track, ask a friend or writing group member to read through what you have written early on in the process. It’s better to have feedback from a reader before you write 200 pages of material that doesn’t flow well.

It’s also good to pay a manuscript consultant for a critique during the writing process. Most fees are minimal for a professional review of your first ten pages. Each consultant has slightly different guidelines and prices, but their advice can be very valuable when preparing your work for publication. You can get feedback on the flow of your work, the dialogue between characters, the fit for your intended audience, and honest comments about your strengths and weaknesses in fiction and nonfiction writings.

When your work is complete, seek out a good proofreader. If your friends are grammar and spelling gurus, you may not have to pay someone for this task. However, make sure that they are avid readers with a strong vocabulary and are willing to be honest with you if you are using words incorrectly or struggling with commas and colons. Make sure they know publishing tips such as when to use en dashes, em dashes, and hyphens. Your readers expect a well-prepared manuscript. Too many errors break the flow of your work and can cause many readers to put your book down and never return to finish it.

Seeking advice often in your writing process helps you stay on track to create a manuscript that will catch the eye of an editor and keep the attention of your readers. We all need help getting it right.

Chris Pepple is an award-winning author with six published books. She is also a freelance writer, manuscript consultant, and editor. Her articles have appeared in many local and national publications. She is a guest speaker for nonprofit groups and writing groups, leading seminars and retreats throughout the nation.