5 Ways authors can whip their manuscripts into shape


If you’re thinking of getting your baby out to the world, then shaping it into the best manuscript has to be part of the plan. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re self-publishing or traditionally publishing.

While this post is not about brand, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it. Because why would you put a pot-hole on your momentum, your hard work, or your brand by self-publishing a book you didn’t whip into shape first?

One of my least favourite parts of whipping my manuscript into shape is redundant editing. And before you send flack my way, I don’t just mean plain old editing. I actually happen to like editing and strengthening the story. This is also my opportunity to add details on setting, characters, and word choice.

What I’m referring to is re-editing the same piece over and over until you’ve either sucked the joy out of it or you’re not sure if the story has actually improved. Now, while there may not be an easy button for that, there are some ways to train yourself out of the habit.

person using green typewriter on brown wooden
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com


  1. Critique groups

Critique groups or partners can play a large role in shaping your novel. Also, these groups can vary. They range from online to large or small. Take it from someone who spent lots of time looking for the right partners, put in the time. It’s worth it.

Your group members should complement each other in skill. Each person should have at least one of these skills:

  • Comprehension – grammar and spelling
  • Genre expert – know the do’s and don’t
  • Story overview – plot holes, flow, development etc.

Too large a group and you risk having too many voices – which can lead to never-ending edits. Three to seven critique partners has worked for me.

  1. Beta readers

As much as I hate to say it, these are not group members. And If you choose a friend or family member, be sure their feedback is honest and straight-up. Remember, these are your genre lovers and they are reading from a place of enjoyment.

Some of what you’ll want to know: (Not everyone will be a fan and that’s okay)

  • Did they enjoy the story?
  • Was the ending satisfactory? If not, why?
  • What was missing?
  • Did they enjoy your writing style?
  1. Research after writing

I know, I know. But hear me out. You are more likely to keep and continue enthusiasm while writing if you’re not stopping every few chapters or paragraphs to research some detail. You’re also likely to get the manuscript done faster. Look, if researching beforehand works for you, then go for it but, I’ve also known authors to get so bogged down in pages of detail that they lose interest before they finish outlining.

Also, if you research after, you might realize you didn’t need all that research only sprinkles of detail here and there.

  1. Editor

A good editor is an asset. They can catch grammar, stylistic changes, plot, and other editorial parts of the manuscript that could use sprucing up.

Unless they are in your circle, there is a cost associated by hiring an editor.

Although traditional publishers have editors working for them, I would still advise whipping your manuscript into shape before querying.

  1. Read Read Read

Reading is a huge part of writing. I have my favourite books on editing and I’m not afraid to mark them up or reread them to develop techniques. If you’re like me and let your manuscript sit, (mentioned below) you re-read your books on editing which makes the process smoother or you write something new.

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
― Stephen King


  1. Let it sit

Not everyone can afford an editor, I said it. Especially when you are starting out. That’s why being surrounded by a small community of like-mindedauthors is important. Like minded because hobby writers and writers wanting to make a living from writing what they love, have different goals. What’s important to one is not important to the other. There is nothing wrong with hobby writing. But if your goal is publishing (whichever way) big picture is important – deadlines, time frames on feedback, and moving on to the next project.

So let it sit, then come back to it with new perspective. Write a short story in between. I personally don’t think length of time matters, that depends on you.



this is your year written message, note book

I hope you found this post helpful. Have tips or ideas you’d like to share, please leave a comment. Or if you want to pass on the love, share this post. Thank you.

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