Yeah, that’s right, you. Step away from that manuscript. I don’t care how many times you’ve read your work-in-progress, there are still errors lurking within all those words. The best way to find all those mistakes is to step away from the work. Two weeks is usually good.
Here a few pre-submission tricks you can try at home:
- If you belong to a critique group, get at least two people who have read the chapters to critique the manuscript as a whole;
- Select at least two other people who’ve never seen the book to critique the manuscript;
- While all of these people are reading your manuscript, do not look at it! That’s right! Don’t open the file, print it out, don’t even think about it;
- When you’ve gone through everyone’s comments and made corrections, read through the manuscript again.
I’ll guarantee you’ll find a whole host of errors that escaped you and your readers. Once you’ve finished editing from this perspective, find one person who has never seen a single word of your manuscript and get that individual to give you a critique. While that person is looking at the book, don’t crack a page, no matter how tempting it may be.
When that person has finished, you must read through the hard-copy a final time. Why is that time away so necessary? Your brain knows what you want to say, and it will read those missing words into a sentence. By stepping away from the manuscript for a couple of weeks, you’re giving yourself time to forget certain passages.
You’ll also find places where paragraphs don’t flow well and need a few extra sentences, redundant phrases, and grammar issues you’d thought you’d resolved. You will have a whole new perspective after your break and those mistakes will jump out at you.
Time consuming? Oh yeah, but so wasn’t writing the novel. Consider that most agents and editors only give you one shot, then you want to make sure you’re putting your best work forward. I’d rather put a little extra time and work on the backside to make sure my one shot counts the most.
So you tell me: do you take a break when you finish your novel so you can step back and look at it with fresh eyes? Does it help when you do?