After weeks of hard work, you’ve finally come to the end of your story. You’ve put so much into it, and now you can’t wait for the world to see it. Even though you’re excited, don’t hit that publish button just yet. In this article, I am going to list four things you should do before publishing your manuscript.
1. Get Feedback
Do not publish your work until you’ve had a few friends read it over. As the author, you’ve been immersed in your story for weeks, months, or maybe even years. A fresh set of eyes will definitely catch errors you missed which might be as simple as punctuation mistakes or as complex as a gaping plot hole.
I won’t go into too much detail on this tip here, because I’ve already written two articles on it that go in-depth. I recommend you check them out before sending your manuscript off for review.
2. Do a Continuity Check
What is continuity? It’s when things are consistent and make sense.
If in chapter one of my novel, I mention that Fish City is a thirty-minute drive from Mackerel Valley but then in chapter thirteen, my characters leave Mackerel Valley in the morning and don’t get to Fish City until after dark, the timeline is clearly off.
Check the timelines and distances in your story. Are they consistent throughout the novel? Do they make sense?
A separate continuity issue I encountered in one of my recent projects had to do with a character’s injury. The story opened with the hero getting treated for a dislocated shoulder. In my early drafts, I forgot about the injury a few pages in and wrote my hero lifting items and fighting as if nothing was wrong. I had to go back and rewrite those segments later taking the injury into account.
As much as I love the Harry Potter books, it’s always bothered me that magic could straighten Hermione’s teeth but not fix Harry’s nearsightedness. The number of wizards wearing glasses in that series makes me wonder if vision problems are the one medical issue magic can’t fix. This is technically a continuity issue (though not one that bothers me enough to hamper my enjoyment of the series.)
Here is a quick continuity questionnaire you can use during your story finalization:
- Are the names of people and places spelled consistently? (This is especially important if you made up fake words for your story.)
- How long does my character take to learn XYZ, is that timeline believable?
- How long does it take for characters to travel between locations and is that timeline consistent throughout the book?
- Does magic work consistently in my world?
- Does the weather match the seasons and locations?
- Are the characters dressed in a way that makes sense given the temperature? (For example, you say it was a hot day then describe your hero wearing a heavy coat.)
This is not an exhaustive list of continuity questions. Feel free to add your own. If you’ve ever made a funny continuity error or caught one in a book you were reading, tell us about it in the comments.
You got feedback on your story, you’ve checked for continuity errors, and now it’s time to proofread!
I always save proofing for the very end of my writing process when the story is locked down. This is because anytime I make changes to the story, I risk adding new grammatical errors.
I use Grammarly for my first proofreading pass. You can also use the Hemingway editor or any number of other tools. I figure, if I let the computer catch the obvious errors it will save my human editor some time.
That brings me to my next step: give your manuscript to a human proofreader.
But pick that proofreader carefully! Don’t just select the first volunteer you get. You want someone who loves language more than they love to breathe. You want one of those annoying people who correct the grammar on Tweets or FaceBook posts. You want someone who will catch every little tiny punctuation inconsistency. They don’t have to like your story or your genre. In fact, sometimes it’s better if they don’t. The more they enjoy the story, the more likely they are to get sucked in and miss errors.
4. Read the Whole Thing Over
After your book is proofread and formatted and ready to send to the publisher, there is one final thing you need to do. Read it one more time.
That’s right, read the entire manuscript from cover to cover before publishing. The reason you want to do this is:
- To make sure you are publishing the correct file and not an older version.
- To make sure formatting errors weren’t introduced (like a bulleted list got turned into a paragraph somehow.)
- To make sure section breaks are in the correct place.
- To make sure you didn’t delete an entire section when you got so tired that you face-planted into your keyboard.
Yes, this final pass takes a lot of time, and you might be getting sick of reading your story at this point. Do it anyway. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve almost uploaded the wrong file or introduced some embarrassing error while making my final changes. You’ve worked so hard on this story, you don’t want it spoiled by an accidental formatting issue!
So that’s my August article! Did I miss anything? What are some things you always do before publishing your work?
Let me know in the comments! Also, let me know what you would like me to write about in September!
Thanks for reading!
Thanks Katy, this is all great stuff to cover. One thing I would add is to make the final read-through be out loud. It forces you to slow down and read more carefully, and if someone else is listening, they’ll help you catch things too. If you find yourself reading a line out loud differently than how you wrote it, it usually means it would sound more natural that way.
That is an awesome tip!