Question: As an author, what are some things you should pay close attention to as you revise your manuscript?



The manuscript revision process can be long, daunting, and frustrating, but is so important to the overall quality and success of a book. Self-editing is probably one of the most overlooked steps in the publishing process, resulting in thousands of books that are error-ridden, unprofessional, and downright difficult to read. Before you send your manuscript off for publication, it's critical that you take the time to use the editing skills you have to get your book in the best shape possible. Here are some questions to ask yourself as you are revising:

1. Are there glaring errors?

Spelling, Grammar, and Punctuation

These types of errors are the most common but are also the easiest to fix. Punctuating dialogue correctly, for example, can be tricky. One suggested method for catching these errors is to read your manuscript out loud – this slows your editing process, allowing you to catch simple mistakes. At a minimum, use your word processor’s spell check tool or download a free software tool like Grammarly. These won’t catch everything, but will provide a good start.

Voice, Tense, and Point of View 

Other common mistakes in a first draft include issues with voice, tense, and point of view. It’s important that writers understand the difference between active and passive voice, and that they avoid tense shifts (alternating between past and present when it’s not necessary), and point of view shifts (head-hopping between characters when not intentional).

It’s easy for writers to become blind to these types of mistakes, so it helps to step away from a manuscript before starting any revisions. Even renowned authors like Stephen King recommend putting a manuscript away for several weeks before tackling the editing process.

2. Is it properly structured?

Look for glaring errors, structural issues, and more when editing a book.How your book is structured will impact its flow, pacing, and readability:


Every great story has five key elements: an inciting incident, a protagonist, an antagonist, conflict, and a resolution. If any of these elements are missing or ignored, the story will feel incomplete. With a fiction story, it’s also important to organize your plot so that the series of events makes sense. If your story doesn’t have a clear beginning, middle, and ending, it’s time to educate yourself on the craft of storytelling.


There are numerous ways that a nonfiction book can be structured, depending on your topic and goals. Is the book a how-to with step-by-step instructions, or are you providing information and opinions on an area of expertise? Are you writing a biography about a historical figure, or a memoir about a real-life experience? If you are writing a memoir, did you know it should be structured more like a fiction story? There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to writing nonfiction, so be sure the structure you choose is the best fit for your book.

3. Does it meet genre and word count expectations?

To understand if your book will be competitive with other books in your genre, you need to do your homework. This means understanding the expectations of readers and other industry professionals when it comes to content and word count. If you’re writing for young adults or children, does your language, theme, and word choice fit the target age group? If you’re writing science fiction or fantasy, is your world-building up to par with books that are popular in these genres? Have you written a 150,000 word self-help book when readers of this genre expect closer to 50,000 words?

You’re writing the book because you have something unique to say or offer, but readers will expect certain elements are present when purchasing your book and will be highly disappointed if these elements are missing.

4. Where do I need help?

We all know that multiple sets of eyes are better than one when reviewing any type of communication or document. Writers often miss errors and inconsistencies, making it necessary to consult outside help when revising. Self-editing does NOT replace professional editing. Even if you do a very thorough job of editing your own manuscript, you still need to have it professionally edited before publication. I cannot say this enough – a professionally edited book has a much better chance of being successful.

Before you hire a professional book editor, it’s important to understand your weaknesses as a writer so that you can get the right help. Find beta readers to review your manuscript and give you honest feedback. When combined with professional editing, reader insights will go a long way in making a so-so book GREAT!

There is no downside to editing and revisions when done properly. If you are pursuing a traditional publishing path, a well-edited manuscript will increase your chances of finding an agent and getting your book placed with a publisher. If you are pursuing a self or independent publishing path, a well-edited product will attract more readers and improve your book’s marketability.