Edit your Manuscript

Posted by Mona Risk | 10:27 PM | 17 comments »

Someone said that creating a good book is ten percent writing and ninety-percent editing. Although I don’t believe that statistics, I certainly spend a lot of time polishing my manuscripts before daring to send them to an editor.

For me, editing starts while I am writing.
As soon as I type my first chapter, I read it again and again,
first to check that the story flows well, then for typos,
spelling and grammar and finally to make sure that the hook is grabbing enough.

Attending three workshops with Mary Buckham has taught me the necessity of making the first line, first paragraph and first page intriguing enough to catch a reader’s—or editor’s—interest. As a result, I keep revising that first line and first paragraph while I continue to write my story. By the time the book is finished, I have without exaggeration, at least twenty versions of first paragraphs, all saved. I compare them, send them to my critique partners, and sometimes combine some of them, until I am really satisfied with my hook.

After writing my first book and revising it for ever, three years, I became convinced that an outline would save months of revision. Now before I start a new story, I write an outline for the first three chapters, a summary of the back story, a few lines about the hero, heroine’s and villain’s characters and one paragraph to summarize the storyline. Only then, do I allow myself to write the first three chapters.

By the time my partial is polished, I know my characters and I have a pretty good idea of where the plot is going. I prepare a complete outline for the book and write my story without interruption for days and weeks.

To edit the whole book, I tabulate the chapters and scenes as follows.
I will give you an example of my spreadsheet.

1-Chapter One
2-Scene 1.1 Pages: 5 pages
3-Word count: 900 words

4-Setting: avoid having several scenes in the same setting. It’s boring.
5- POV: Heroine’s or hero’s. If you have a long book you can add, the villain’s POV.
6-Hook: copy here the first line of the scene.

7-GMC: what is the goal in that scene, what is the conflict?
8-Emotional development: show how the attraction increases. You should see a definite increase from scene to scene.
9-Action: it’s important to show some stage direction.

10-Sensual Tension: any eye contact, hand touching, kiss,… Like the emotional development, the sexual tension should increase from chapter to chapter.
11- Sensorial : smell, sounds and color in the scene. It helps the reader be grounded in the scene.
12- End hook: copy the last sentence of the scene. Make sure it generates suspense, a question to be answered in the next scene or some emotion that keeps the reader panting.
13- Pace: how do you evaluate the pace in this scene, fast, medium slow? It should be fast if you have action or dialogue, and slow to emphasize emotion.

This spreadsheet may look like a lot of work. Believe me, it’s not, if you prepare it while
reading your manuscript. Once done, it will help you see at a glance what is missing and what needs improvement.

In addition to self-editing, I can’t stress enough the importance of sharing your work with a few critique partners you trust to be honest with you. You don’t need flattering but you don’t
need someone destroying your confidence. It takes years to find the right critique partners.
They will become your best friends.

You manuscript is ready to go. You need one last reading. I suggest you save the file in Adobe, click on VIEW, and then READ OUT LOUD. It’s an amazing feature I discovered a few years ago. The computer will read your story while you look at the pages on the monitor screen and note on a paper the repetitions, missing words, lack of transition. I prefer this method to printing and reading on paper. But you need one these two methods of final reading to catch the mistakes your eyes have stopped seeing on the screen.

Good luck with your next story.

Mona Risk writes romantic suspense for Cerridwen Press, TO LOVE A HERO and
FRENCH PERIL and medical romances for The Wild Rose Press, in BABIES IN THE BARGAIN and Rx FOR TRUST.
All her books are available at Amazon.com



  1. Judy // November 11, 2009 at 11:31 AM  

    Mona! That's one of the BEST posts I've ever read on Editing! Fabulous job and so generous of you to share! THANK YOU! Good luck with your books. You're doing so well...

  2. Barbara Monajem // November 11, 2009 at 11:50 AM  

    Wow, Mona, you are incredibly well-organized. Thanks for this post!

  3. Toni V.S. // November 11, 2009 at 12:05 PM  

    Very informative and helpful!

  4. Toni V.S. // November 11, 2009 at 12:05 PM  

    Very informative and helpful!

  5. Beth Trissel // November 11, 2009 at 12:08 PM  

    Excellent post, Mona. Great advice. Thanks!

  6. Mary Marvella // November 11, 2009 at 12:36 PM  

    Amazing post. It's all there and so useful. Mona, you rock!

  7. Mona Risk // November 11, 2009 at 1:28 PM  

    Judy, I am so happy you can benefit from my experience. Part of what I am doing was requested by a HQ editor who insisted I should plot the emotional development to make sure the love story is moving forward with each chapter and not stagnating or going backwards.

  8. Mona Risk // November 11, 2009 at 1:32 PM  

    Barbara, a lot of that we automatically do. But such a spreadsheet helps me see at a glance if something is missing and how to enhance a weak scene. I put it together after listening to different workshops by NY bestselling authors. One recommended paying attention to sensorial, another to sexual tension. When I put it together I make sure I don't have too much or too little of any of the main ingredients, so to speak.

  9. Mona Risk // November 11, 2009 at 1:32 PM  

    Thank you Toni.

  10. Mona Risk // November 11, 2009 at 1:33 PM  

    Thanks Beth.

  11. Mona Risk // November 11, 2009 at 1:33 PM  

    Glad you like it Mama Mary.

  12. Pamela Varnado // November 11, 2009 at 2:40 PM  

    Absolutely wonderful advice. I always do some plotting before I begin to write. It saves me a lot of time, not to mention the headaches.

  13. Patrice // November 11, 2009 at 3:29 PM  

    Wow, Mona,
    No wonder you are a receiving such high reviews - you really know your stuff. This is great information. Thank you!

  14. Scarlet Pumpernickel // November 11, 2009 at 5:17 PM  

    Great informative post Mona! I plan to print it out and use it as a guide while revising!


  15. Mary Ricksen // November 11, 2009 at 5:20 PM  

    Great advise from a great author. Thanks Mona, you make it seem so easy.

  16. Autumn Jordon // November 11, 2009 at 8:27 PM  

    Oh, I love Mary. I've learned so much from her, Diana and Margie. Taking the time to edit, edit, edit and reading your work is excellent advice, Mona. I like the idea of a checklist.


  17. Joanne // November 11, 2009 at 10:08 PM  

    Thank you, Mona,for the great tips. I especially liked the Adobe information. I was not aware of it and it seems like a very useful tool.