How to Prepare Your Manuscript for Editing | Magic Words Editing
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Magic Words Editing | How to Prepare Your Book for Editing

How to Prepare Your Manuscript for Editing

You’ve found your editor—hooray! You’ve approved their sample edit, put down the deposit, and are furiously making the last adjustments to your manuscript before sending it off with a deep breath and a prayer. But, wait! Before you do, read over these tips to properly prepare your manuscript for editing, which will make your editor’s job easier and your edit more accurate, right from the start. (Note: these tips apply to line and copyediting only. Developmental editing and manuscript evaluations are a whole different stage of the editing process.)

Before You Prepare Your Manuscript for Editing

Before you do all the work to prepare your manuscript for editing, you must complete all your revisions. Yep. Dunzo. Finite’. Why?

Version control

If you make additional revisions to your book after you’ve already sent the file to your editor, he or she then has to keep track of which version is the final, final product to work on. The chances he or she will edit the wrong file increase exponentially.Don’t do this to your poor editor.

Efficiency and accuracy

If you get a pile of feedback from beta readers, or have late-night epiphanies about your characters, plot, or other changes to the story, after your editor has begun working on your m/s, you might be tempted to make further revisions after the edited manuscript is returned to you. Don’t!Additional writing could introduce unintentional errors that will stand out even more when surrounded by pristine text. Unless you and your editor have agreed to a second editing pass through your writing at a later date, resist the urge to fiddle with things when the manuscript comes back.

At some point, you really just have to decide to be done. Make that decision before your book is edited.

Manuscript Formatting

Even if you plan to hire a formatter or book designer before you publish your work, there are simple, quick adjustments you can make to your manuscript file that will help your editor do the best job possible.

A quick note on manuscript file types: most editors prefer to work in Microsoft Word because of its robust editing features. If you work in Scrivener, Google Docs, or another writing software, converting your file to Word is in some cases a kind gesture and in others an absolute necessity. Nearly all writing software can export a file to Word. Check out the support feature in yours to learn how to do this.

Font and paragraph styles

The most common font used in publishing (and therefore editing) is Times New Roman, 12 pt. Converting your text to this font and size is one gracious action you can take to smooth your editor’s entry into your work. Your editor will probably do this anyway when he or she begins, but it’s really nice to not have to.And, while you’re at it, make all your paragraphs double spaced, first-line indented 0.5″, with no spacing before or after. This is the easiest style for editing as it allows for the right amount of whitespace for seeing the text clearly and catching errors.

Turn chapters into headings

If you have chapters in your book, I encourage you to apply Word’s Heading styles to those chapters. Word styles are formatting selections collected together that you can apply to a word or words with one click.Why do this? A manuscript is a large, sometimes unwieldy document. When editing, an editor often needs to navigate through the entire document as a whole to find and correct global issues. If chapters have Heading styles applied, they appear as clickable links when the editor runs a CTRL+F search query, making navigation through your manuscript much more simple and efficient.

Include front and back matter

It’s often a good idea to have your front and back matter completed and included in your manuscript before you send it to an editor. What is front and back matter? Parts of the book outside of the main story text. Here are some examples:

Front matter

1. Title page
2. Dedication
3. Epigraph
4. Table of Contents
5. Foreword
6. Preface

Back matter

1. Acknowledgments
2. Glossary
3. About the author

And so on . . .

Why include these parts in the manuscript you send to your editor? So he or she can include them in the edit. If the rest of your book is clean and correct, these parts should be too, and asking an editor to review front and back matter after the main edit is complete will probably cost more.

Pretty simple, right? If you take nothing else away from this post, remember this: before you send your manuscript to an editor, finish your revisions, format your manuscript, and include every part of the book.

If you’re at the point in your writing journey where you need a professional line or copyedit for your story, I invite you to apply for a free trial edit of one chapter in your book. Learn more about my services here and apply here.

Other posts in this series:

What Does an Editor Do, Exactly? The Real Job of an Editor
The Different Levels Of Editing And How To Decide What Your Book Needs
Thinking of Hiring an Editor? Four Ways to Find “The One”
Thinking of Hiring an Editor? Three Places to Find “The One”
How Much Does Editing Cost?