editing / writers tips / writing

Writer’s Tip #90: 11 Tips to Consider Before Declaring Your Manuscript Done

writers tips

Great tips for soon-to-be great writers

When you read your story, does it sound off, maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know you’ve done something wrong? Sometimes–maybe even lots of times–there are simple fixes. These writer’s tips will come at you once a week, giving you plenty of time to go through your story and make the adjustments.

These 11 tips are from Renni Browne and Dave King’s wonderful book, Self-editing for Fiction Writers. If you are preparing a story for your writers group, for a beta reader, or want to knock out the most obvious errors before spending money on a professional copy editor, this book should be on your Christmas list. You’ll notice their comments are more non-judgmental than most reviewers. Their focus is to make you consider important elements of your writing–do they deliver the message you want them to in your writing? Feel free to read more of my review, then check back here for the most important tips Browne and King cover. Here are my favorites:

  • Narrative summary no longer engages readers the way it once did. Showing your story… will not only give your writing immediacy. It will give it transparency.
  • Are you describing your characters’ feelings?
  • It’s often a good idea to introduce a new character with enough physical description for your readers to picture him or her.
  • Some writing books distinguish as many as twenty-six different flavors of point of view, but there are really only three basic approaches: first person, third person, and omniscient
  • (If you move from head to head) Would your story gain power if you stuck with a single viewpoint character or broke your scenes up at appropriate places … to make this possible?
  • Take a look at your language. Is it right for your viewpoint character?
  • Take a look at your descriptions. Are the details you give the ones your viewpoint character would notice?
  • Do you have tangents–little subplots or descriptions that don’t advance the plot?
  • (On the importance of dialogue mechanics: This from an agent): The first thing I do is find a scene with some dialogue. If the dialogue doesn’t work, the manuscript gets bounced. If it’s good, I start reading.
  • Can you get rid of any of your speaker attributions?
  • Read your dialogue aloud

To have these tips delivered to your email, click here.

Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-fifth grade and creator of two technology training books for middle school. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman.  She is webmaster for five blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.comEditorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing TeachersIMS tech expert, and a weekly contributor to Write Anything. Currently, she’s seeking representation for a techno-thriller that she just finished. Any ideas? Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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13 thoughts on “Writer’s Tip #90: 11 Tips to Consider Before Declaring Your Manuscript Done

  1. Great idea – thanks!

    No, self-pub would be last resort for me. I know there are a few success stories but Amanda Hocking’s success doesn’t come along very often. But I’ve learned to “never” say ‘never.’ 🙂


  2. Hi Jacqui,

    I’m on my third manuscript, actually. My current WIP is only 15,000 words right now – just starting. I have about three fulls and a couple of partials out on my other books. In the last six months I’ve received some enouraging, personal rejections which I hope is a sign I’m getting closer. LOL. As an unpublished author, I have to find encouragement where I can. I’m blessed with a couple of WONDERFUL critique groups and I’ve learned tons from them. Just hoping if I ever used a professional editorial service, perhaps I could learn even more.


    • Are you considering self-pub? And, if you have a good finished book, you might consider Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA). It’s free to enter, lots of contracts come out of it. It opens Jan. 23rd. I’m entering. We can chat on the forums!


  3. Thanks for letting me know. I’d like an editor with a wonderful grasp of “story” to let me know if I am writing scenes correctly, if I have sufficient character development, etc. Don’t really need much help with grammar. I get feedback from critique groups, but sometimes it is contradictory or I don’t agree with the assessment.


    • I’ve turned mine in at writers conferences–for those 10 minute quickies. I’ve had a few phenomenal, more often a waste of money. My writers group is my best source right now. Is your WIP close to being done?


  4. Yes. They’re spot on with grammar issues, but 50/50 with the rest. Sometimes they don’t quite get my intent and motivation so suggest character or plot changes I don’t agree with.

    On the other hand, I then checked to see if I’d been clear enough on those other issues–why didn’t they get it?


  5. Love your tips! Interesting that an agent will turn to dialogue first, but it makes sense. I used to hate writing dialogue but it’s my favorite kind of writing now.

    Debbie Herbert


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