What does polishing your manuscript mean? You hear it all the time. Make sure your ms shines. Look out for weak verb constructions and adverbs, or too many dialog tags, etc. Sure, these are important elements. But don’t be fooled into thinking strong mechanics are enough for your book to be “ready” for submission. They’re superficial elements. Yes, writing mechanics will make or break a great novel, but it’s only one of the MANY things that make a novel shine. Be sure your manuscript can answer these questions:
- What are the character’s hopes and dreams? Are they obvious to the reader?
- Did you convey a sense of yearning toward these goals?
- How does your character change over the course of their journey to reach their goal(s)?
- What unforeseen growth (or lack of it) happened IN SPITE of the protag’s ignorance of this need to grow?
- Did you properly portray the protag’s likeable qualities?
- What noble (or horror-inducing) actions display the protagonist’s inner sensibilities?
- How do your protagonist’s weaknesses cause obstacles for them before they may achieve their goal(s)?
- Why should the reader continue to read your 250+ paged novel? What is the lesson or moral your book reveals?
Setting & Mood
- Are your characters’ actions anchored in description and sensory details? Have you made the reader hear the metallic clang of a chain fence, feel the rustle of silk on skin, or smell the fatty richness of bacon?
- Have you reflected the character’s feelings by their view of their surroundings? How has this aided in creating a mood or tone for your novel? Can you pinpoint specific examples?
- Does your book display the theme(s) you’re trying to communicate? Can you discern them in different parts of your novel?
- Which additional themes can you weave into the story to enrich the messages in your MS?
- Does the reader long to discover how the character will confront their obstacles?
- Have you made each chapter a mini novel within itself– beginning, middle, climax, and end?
- Does each chapter finish leaving the reader wanting to turn the page, or close the book?
- Have you developed the novel’s themes through the use of symbols?
- Is there a sense of foreshadowing illustrated through the use of symbols?
So how do we know if we’ve REALLY answered all of these questions?
1. Get a critique partner or group on par with your level of craft or slightly above.
2. Enlist several beta readers outside of your crit group for fresh eyes
3. Hire an editor
4. Become a reader yourself. Let your manuscript rest for several weeks and go back to it. Reread it from cover to cover without revising anything. What is missing?
When you can answer all of these questions without hesitating only THEN is it polished to perfection.
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