As I was finishing up the last of the proofreading and edits of my manuscript for Stenhouse (Close Writing: Developing Purposeful Writers in Grades 2-6) I solicited some ideas on Facebook from my author friends: “Calling on all my writer friends for any advice on final edits of a manuscript. Any tips on what works for you would be welcome as I venture into new waters here.”
I hoped to get a response or two. I was a little overwhelmed with the wonderful advice from so many authors I look up to!
Lynda Mullaly Hunt Set a day aside and read the entire thing out loud. You hear things you don’t hear when he read silently. Good luck!
Franki Sibberson By final edits, I’ve learned that I need to let go and know I can’t do everything I want to do in one piece of writing (even though it is a BIG piece of writing!). So I work to make what I’ve already said the best that it can be instead of thinking of all the things I didn’t say and trying to add those in. If that helps at all!
Cynthia Lord Change the font and print a copy. It will look different enough that your eye will read every word again–if it looks familiar your eyes sometimes read what you think it says, not exactly what it does.
Charlotte Agell I love the Cynthia tip. Different fonts make me THINK differently. They are like the clothing of my words – punk, staid, all-purpose, snazzy…
Lester Laminack I find it helpful to put it aside and write a summary/note to myself what I hope the reader leaves with. Then I read the whole thing with that in mind.
Jennifer Richard O’Grady I tackle the smaller edits, the easier things first. That gives my brain more time to chew on the bigger questions. From time to time stop and savor the moment. Your dedication got you to this stage!
Sarah Albee Do a find/replace for words you suspect you use too much. I’ve horrified myself with this exercise, finding I use certain words way too often. Also search-and-destroy too many semicolons, or whatever your personal perils may be!
Kate Messner When I review copy edits, I take a blank piece of paper to cover up everything beneath the line I’m reading – helps me to slow down. Also, read aloud.
Donalyn Miller Appreciate all of the great advice here. I take a close look at really long sentences to decide if they make sense or need to be revised/shortened for clarity.
Maria Padian Hunt down adverbs. Wherever possible, replace them with stronger verbs that don’t need modifying, or give the character a physical gesture that conveys the meaning you’re after. Same with the verb “to be.”
Lynn Plourde My agent taught me this trick . . . you can delete “that” most of the time (i.e. I didn’t know that she lived in town . . . I didn’t know she lived in town). Btw, since I’m at the final edit stage on my MG novel–I’m savoring all this advice you’re getting, Paula!
Gae Polisner The biggest help is to put it away for a month or three and read it fresh then, but very few of us have the luxury or patience to do so.
Melissa Stewart Highlight your verbs in a different color and make sure ewach one is as strong and precise as it can possibly be.
Meg Frazer Blakemore Give yourself breaks and walk around, even if it’s just around your house.
David Lopez Read it backwards in a mirror, turn around three times and then set it on fire. Laugh with glee.
Ammi-Joan Paquette So many great comments here already! I would just add that it’s not easy, taking the plunge to “let go” and launch your baby out in the world. It’s helpful to remember that you have been diligent, and thoughtful, and thorough–you’ve done your best, and it’s GOOD. That’s why you’ve gotten this far. Once you give it that final read, and make any last changes that jump out, let it go with confidence. It’s ready to fly!
I wanted to save (and savor) their sage advice, not only for this project but for all writing moving forward. They didn’t have to respond, but their passion for writing is so evident when they rush in to support another writing. And so I am feeling thankful today. Thankful that the final proofread manuscript was sent back to Stenhouse, thankful for those amazing people who work there that will turn my words into a book, and thankful for all those authors who were willing to mentor me on my journey. It has truly taken a village to raise this ‘baby’!
What’s On My Book Radar?
I am so excited that our recent school book fair had Kate Messner’s latest Ranger in Time: Danger in Ancient Rome. This copy is sitting by my bedstand waiting for me to finish this blog, log off, and pick it up! I think this is such a fun and informative series. I know the painstakingly careful research Kate does for her books, so I know I will learn something new with each of Ranger’s adventures. If you haven’t discovered this series yet for yourselves, I encourage you to grab a copy of this and Rescue on the Oregon Trail