The Importance of a Polished Manuscript

When you have finished your first draft, it is important to address the various types of edit you may seek. You may want a developmental or structural edit, a copy-edit or you might instruct you editor to proofread your work. The work that will be carried out in these different edits will be covered more fully in Chapter Ten.

However, copy editing which involves a detailed, line by line review of your novel is probably the most critical for inexperienced or debut authors. You can expect the editor to consider issues that should include ensuring continuity with regard to your descriptions and storyline. If necessary, they will also advise on improving the clarity of the language you have used. They will also remove repetitive and redundant language. Any agent or publisher will usually make a decision on whether to take your submission further on little more than a brief read through of the extract you submit. If the language seems clumsy or unclear, they will most likely move it to the reject pile. It doesn’t matter how good your idea or plot.

Only if you have a finished product is there any point in approaching agents or publishers. No book is so brilliant, so original and so marketable that agents or publishers will overlook basic flaws. The flaws will be the difference between a positive or negative response, or no response at all. Agents and publishers are looking for talented writers, but they are also looking for that talent to be combined with discipline and commitment. If they are to invest their time and their money in you as an author, they must be confident that you can write and deliver good quality work to a timescale.

Authors also have to be able to respond to editorial requests and suggestions, as well as being able to deal with the demands of the publication and production process. It is true not only for your first book, but for all books you have published. This is to say, you will be required to be professional. There is a particularly helpful series of books by Elizabeth Ducie, The Business of Writing that you may find helpful. Book 3 of this series, particularly Identifies the basic minimum standards of time management that must be achieved, while freeing the writer to spend the maximum possible time writing It also discusses project planning and management; time management, problem solving and a variety of tools and techniques for improving productivity. This will be particularly important if you intend to produce two or more novels each year because writers cannot get away with being unreliable or irresponsible. Agents and publishers will expect, indeed demand, a high standard of dedication, responsiveness, and effort from you.


Amongst the many aspiring authors, only a tiny proportion ever get to be published. Most publishing houses estimate that they only publish between 1-2% of the manuscripts they receive. Therefore, the message is simple: before you even start to think about preparing your draft for submission - finish it.


Val Penny

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