Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Polishing Your Finished Product

By C. LaRene Hall

I wonder how many people finish writing and are so anxious to send their manuscript out they forget the necessary steps to make sure that someone will accept it. I hate to say it, but in my endeavors to help someone with their baby, it seems many of them forget to use the spell and grammar check program on their computer. I also noticed the same thing when I was a judge for a writing contest last year.

I don’t ever send anything to anyone without first checking the spelling and grammar. I’m positive if you send something to a publisher without first checking to see if these things are correct, they probably won’t even finish the first paragraph before throwing it in the slush pile. If you are going to send it to professionals then you should act the part.

I can’t understand why someone who takes the time to write a story wouldn’t want every page perfect. I’ve put together a checklist for self-editing that you can use. Print this off and check each step before sending your manuscript to anyone…including fellow writers who are proofing for you.

1. Read your own work aloud. Look for word problems such as missing words, wrong homonyms, and confusing words. If you stumble when reading a sentence, so will your reader. Make sure you don’t overload your story with too many facts.
2. Use a spell-check program. Remember it only tells you if you’ve spelled the word correctly. It doesn’t know if the word you used is the correct one.
3. Check for proper grammar.
4. Make sure you used proper punctuation.
5. Organize your article or story so it flows smoothly and in sequence.
6. Make sure the meaning of your story is clear.
7. Make a printout. Go through your story with a pencil in hand, and you'll spot problems that might have escaped you on the computer screen. Use different colored pencils and do the following:
a. Underline every to be verb.
b. Underline cliché. Write your own twisted phrase instead of using the same old one.
c. Underline preposition, if a sentence has more than five re-write it.
d. Underline all passive sentences. Rewrite every sentence into the active voice.
e. Underline all split infinitive then re-write the sentence.
f. Cut all the clutter and unnecessary phrases.

I would rather read a story for someone that has completed the steps above. With those things done I can concentrate on the plot, the characters, and the flow of the story. Sometimes I end up so busy checking the spelling and grammar that I put the other things on the back burner. I hope this reminder will help you remember to polish your story before sending it to anyone.

1 comment:

Keith Fisher said...

great blog Connie. I especially liked the part where you said I could write my own, twisted, sentences. thanks for the validation I knew that being twisted would someday come in handy.
Just kidding