As an author, you’ve poured your heart and soul into your manuscript. You’ve invested countless hours into crafting your story, developing your characters, and refining your prose. But the journey to a perfect manuscript is never-ending, and there’s always room for improvement. Whether you’re a seasoned writer or a newbie, here are ten tips to help you make your manuscript even better.
We’ve even included some exercises for you to work on too. Be sure to look out for them!
1. Read Widely and Learn from Others
This one’s easy, right? Reading as many different books in various genres and styles can help you improve your manuscript.
Who’s your favourite author that writes in the same genre as you? Study their work and consider what it is about their books that you like. Reading the works of other established authors will help you learn from their techniques, storytelling methods, and writing styles. Pay attention to how they develop characters, structure their plots, and create immersive settings.
Reading as many books as you can will not only inspire you but broaden your horizons and help you refine your own writing craft. So, next time someone asks “Why are you just sat there reading?” Tell them it’s research!
2. Strengthen Your Plot
The plot is the backbone of your story, so it’s crucial to ensure that it is engaging and well-structured.
Evaluate your plot for coherence, pacing, and tension. Make sure that your story has a clear beginning, middle, and end, with a well-defined conflict and resolution. Read through your manuscript thoroughly to avoid plot holes or inconsistencies. Ensure that each scene serves a purpose in advancing the story.
Attempt to create tension and conflict by putting your characters in challenging situations that force them to evolve and grow. Soon enough your plot will be making choices for your characters and your characters will be altering your plot without you even realising!
Try This: Create a visual plot diagram for your manuscript, outlining the key events and conflicts. Evaluate the pacing and tension in each act and make adjustments to ensure a smooth and engaging narrative flow.
3. Develop Your Characters
Well-developed characters are the heart and soul of any good story.
Take the time to flesh out your characters: give them depth, complexity, and individuality. Ensure that their actions, motivations, and reactions are consistent throughout the story.
Try to consider their backstory, desires, fears, and flaws wherever possible. How do these elements shape their choices and actions? Readers should be able to relate to and care about your characters, so invest in their development to make them memorable and compelling.
Try This: Choose one of your main characters and create a detailed backstory for them, including their childhood, family, experiences, and motivations. Use this information to enrich their characterisation in your manuscript.
4. Show, Don’t Tell
“Show, don’t tell” is one of the most important rules in writing.
Instead of telling readers what is happening, do your best to show them. Vivid descriptions, sensory details, and immersive experiences will help you to do this. Similarly, you can use characters’ dialogue, actions, and emotions to bring your story to life.
Try to avoid lengthy exposition or information dumps that can slow down the pacing and bore readers. Instead, let readers experience the story through the eyes of your characters, and allow them to draw their own conclusions first.
5. Read Aloud for Flow and Clarity
Read your manuscript aloud to yourself (don’t worry, everyone does it!) or, if you’re brave enough, maybe have someone else read it to you.
Reading your work aloud can help you identify awkward sentences, pacing issues, and areas that may not flow well when read aloud. I’m reading this blog post aloud as I’m editing it!
Make sure to pay attention to the rhythm and flow of the language, as well as the clarity of the sentences and paragraphs. Revise any sections that feel awkward or unclear to improve the overall readability of your manuscript.
6. Proofread for Errors
Typos, grammar mistakes, and other errors can detract from the quality of your manuscript. Before submitting your manuscript to a publisher or agent, take the time to thoroughly proofread your work, checking for spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors.
Using grammar and spell-check tools is a good place to start, but it’s important also to read your manuscript carefully to catch any mistakes that may have slipped through the cracks.
7. GEt Feedback from Beta Readers (or even a Professional Editor)
Getting feedback from others can be invaluable in improving your manuscript.
It’s a good idea to share your work with beta readers if you can. Beta readers are individuals who read and provide feedback on a manuscript or written work before it is published or submitted for publication. They typically represent the target audience for the manuscript and provide valuable insights from the perspective of a potential reader. They could be friends, family, or even other authors who write in your genre.
You may also want to consider working with a professional editor who can provide objective feedback on your story, characters, prose, and other elements. It’s important to listen to their suggestions and make yourself open to constructive criticism. You can use an editor’s feedback to identify weaknesses and areas for improvement and make changes accordingly. However, it’s worth considering that a professional editor will cost you some money.
Try This: Share a chapter or section of your manuscript with a trusted beta reader or writing group and ask for specific feedback on the pacing, character development, or any other area you want to improve. Use their feedback to revise and polish your manuscript.
8. Edit Ruthlessly for Clarity and Conciseness
During the editing process, be prepared to be ruthless. Cut out any unnecessary words, phrases, and paragraphs that do not add value to your story.
Ensure that your writing is clear, concise, and free from jargon or overly complicated language — anything that could make a reader put your book down!
Avoid unnecessary adverbs and adjectives, and strive for simplicity in your prose. Keep your sentences focused and avoid run-on sentences. Making your manuscript easier to read will engage readers more effectively.
9. Polish Your Opening and Ending
The opening and ending of your manuscript are critical in capturing readers’ attention and leaving a lasting impression. So whilst you want your whole book to be brilliant, focus first on your opening and closing chapters to make sure they’re the best they can be.
Make sure your opening chapters are intriguing, engaging, and compelling enough to draw your audience in. Maybe even try quickening the pace — slow starts can often turn readers off. Similarly, ensure that your ending hits all the right notes and resonates with readers. You don’t have to tie everything up (especially if you’re writing a series) but try to avoid abrupt or unresolved endings and strive to leave a lasting impact on your readers.
10. Take a Break and Edit with Fresh Eyes
After completing the first draft of your manuscript, take a break (just a couple of days) before diving into the editing process.
This short break allows you to approach your manuscript with fresh eyes and a clear mind. Distancing yourself from your work for a while will allow you to read it more objectively and identify areas that need improvement. When you return to your manuscript, you’ll be better equipped to spot inconsistencies, plot holes, and other issues that may have eluded you initially.
Try this: Read through your manuscript after taking a break and make a list of areas that feel unclear or confusing. Rewrite those sections to improve clarity and coherence.
Crafting a perfect manuscript is a labor of love that requires dedication, time, and effort.
Hopefully, these tips will guide you through the process, help you improve your manuscript, and elevate your writing to the next level. With perseverance and attention to detail, you can create a manuscript that is polished, engaging, and resonates with readers.