- How long should my manuscript be?
- What should I do before hiring an editor?
- What level of editing do I need?
- What’s the difference between a structural edit and a manuscript assessment?
- How does the manuscript editing process work?
- What is a style sheet?
- Will you write me a letter of recommendation?
- Can you get me published?
1. How long should my manuscript be?
This is a “how long is a piece of string” question. Sort of. The easy answer is “as long as it needs to be to tell your story”… the more honest answer is that it depends what sort of story you are telling. Here are some very quick figures – keeping in mind that of course there are exceptions to every rule, and that the explosion of digital publishing, not to mention self-publishing means that none of these are static anyway. Every agent, editor and publisher is different, just as every reader is different. Each will have his or her own preferences.
Publishers are also trying new things all the time, so you never know… but these are some basic guides you can take with a grain of salt:
- Short stories: Anything up to 10k
(depending whether you’re writing flash fiction or a “long short story)
- Novella: 10-40k
- General Fiction: 75k-90k
- Children (Middle Grade): 20-55k
- Young Adult: 55-75k
- Romance: 70-80k
- Fantasy/Science Fiction: 90-120k
- Epic Fantasy: 110-180k
If you are planning to submit to a publisher or a competition please check their guidelines.
2. What should I do before hiring an editor?
Before engaging an editor to look over your manuscript, it is recommended you do as much work as you can by yourself.
If you have only just finished writing the first draft, try letting the book “rest” for a while. Taking a break for a few weeks, or even a couple of months, will let you come back to it with fresh eyes and fresh ideas. If possible, seek reader feedback, even if it is from friends and family. The more feedback you can get and the more work you can do yourself before hiring someone, the more value you will get from the professional editing process.
3. What level of editing do I need?
It depends what sort of document or publication you’re talking about and what you plan to do with it.
Generally, a complete, fully-edited document that’s ready for publishing or distribution will have been through three levels of checking, which are covered broadly by the term “comprehensive editing”. These three levels are:
- Structural editing. This is a “big picture” edit of the entire work, concentrating on the story itself: plot, flow, characters, tone, style, consistency and continuity and the overall structure of the work. If this is the first time your manuscript is being edited, and especially if it is the first time it is going to be seen by someone else, this is probably where you want to start.
- Copyediting This is a detailed, close edit of the manuscript, essentially editing line-by-line. The focus of a copyedit is on consistency, voice and style, sentence construction, word use, spelling, grammar and punctuation. If you are planning to submit to agents and publishers, you need to make sure your manuscript is the best you can make it, but you may not need a copyedit unless you know you need a lot of help with these elements. If you are planning to self-publish, hiring a copyeditor is strongly recommended.
- Proofreading This is the very last stage and should be undertaken when all other editing and rewriting is complete. Proofreading will check the final pages for lingering typing errors and spelling mistakes before they are submitted to press/upload. Proofreading is useful if your goal is publication. If you’re self-publishing, hiring a proofreader is recommended to make sure your independently-produced book looks as professional as possible. If your goal is submission, hiring a proofreader should not be necessary – although agents and publishers will be looking for professionally presented work, they are looking for strong stories first and publishers will be putting contracted books through their own editing processes anyway.
4. What’s the difference between a structural edit and a manuscript assessment?
A structural edit may include some mark-up on the manuscript and is much more developmentally focused. A manuscript assessment appraises the manuscript as it is and works more as an analysis of the document. It includes a breakdown of the storylines and considerations of the strengths and weaknesses and whether or not the manuscript is ready for publishing. An appraisal is undertaken entirely as a report with no manuscript mark-up.
5. How does the manuscript editing process work?
Once you have provided your manuscript, either in hard or soft copy, it takes several weeks to work on. If you have sent a hard copy, the pages will be marked up in pencil* where any corrections are recommended and notes will also be made in the margins if the editor has queries or further comments. If the manuscript is in soft copy, corrections will be made using track changes in Word, so you can accept or reject any changes made.
In most cases, a report is attached to the edit, outlining any further issues encountered during editing and expanding, where necessary, on any queries or comments noted on the manuscript.
Once the edit is completed it is returned to you, ready for any questions or comments you may have.
*This, like track changes on a soft copy, is to make sure that changes are flexible and easily amended or removed by the author. Editing/reading/writing is subjective and it is possible that changes suggested by your editor to resolve certain plot problems may not work with other ideas you have for your story or, alternatively, they may spark a completely different idea that better reflects your style and voice.
6. What is a style sheet?
A style sheet is a way to ensure consistency throughout your manuscript and throughout your series if you are writing one. It tracks the spelling and punctuation conventions that the editor has followed (for example, whether single or double quote marks have been used, whether “among” or “amongst” is preferred etc) and it also records the spelling of character and place names, any invented words and even character traits etc. It can be as simple as a word list or it may be laid out as a table like this.
7. Will you write me a letter of recommendation? I’ll pay you!
No. Most publishers and agents prefer to make up their own minds about the manuscripts they receive and some do not even read such letters. However, if you have worked with Bothersome Words, you are welcome to mention this in your own cover letter. (Many publishers/agents even prefer to know upfront if you have already worked with an editor on your manuscript.)
8. Can you get me published?
No. Bothersome Words is an editorial service provider and can offer advice, information and support regarding the publishing industry in general but does not have any publisher affiliations.