Tactical Tuesday: Advice for Self-Editing

Do you realize that when an author sends a manuscript to an editor, she is sending an extension of herself? What an editor sees in the first chapter is the first impression of the author—a faceless interview of sorts.

Is your chapter appearing for an interview dressed in cargo shorts and a t-shirt? Is it wearing a baseball cap? Maybe your chapter has walked into this very important first meeting sporting flip flops. On the other hand, has your chapter arrived for the appointment dressed in a nice suit, carrying a briefcase, dress shoes sounding on the marble floor as it approaches the office?

Just as it takes an employer a few moments to sum up an unworthy job candidate, an editor will often make a decision to take or leave a manuscript within the first chapter, and sometimes all it takes is one or two pages. The difference between a manuscript dressed for the beach versus one dressed to impress is in the care given to it by the author before sending it off to represent him or her. A carelessly edited manuscript shows up for the interview like a job candidate who’d clearly rather be anywhere other than interviewing for a highly desirable position.

How does an author prepare her manuscript for a favorable impression? She studies the overall fashion: grammar, punctuation, plot, structure, technique, style, and voice. Then she reviews her work to assure it is appropriately attired for the marketplace.

When an author learns to outfit her manuscript—understands where a comma is expected, the main function for a semicolon, the difference between active and passive sentences, the building block of scene structure to develop a dynamic plot, the necessity of conflict, the reason we adhere to a single point of view in each scene—she can then use this knowledge to maximum effect. In other words, she can dress her manuscript for success.

Join us each week for Tactical Tuesdays where we’ll provide helpful advice for self-editing so your manuscript can walk into an interview prepared to win the position.


  1. Great advice! You hit on the experience of the interview with lucidity.

    I've conducted many "first-time" interviews and believe me when I say that if the candidate came in with a nose-ring and flip-flops they were already disqualified.

    I took similar advice several years ago and I truly appreciate the value of having my manuscript "well-dressed."

  2. Great blog, Fay - and wonderful advice!!! Love getting an insider view of manuscript perception. God bless!

  3. Hopefully, we will get better with each submission. Thank you, Fay!