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Monday, January 4, 2010

After the Typo...

You've finished your manuscript.

You've checked your spelling.

You've let your best friend read the story and they give their hearty approval.

Is there any more editing you can do before you send that query letter out?


The technical aspects of editing (i.e. spelling and grammar) are only the first layer of edits.

Last spring my good friend, Michelle from The Innocent Flower, posted a comparison. She said her novel was like a beautiful painting under a piece of lace. She could see hints of the true beauty, but it was obscured. A few months later she posted mid-edits about digging deep. It's hard to get to the bottom of a story!

And the question kept coming up: Why do we do this?

Why isn't it enough to just write a good story? Why do you need layers and depth?

Because you want an editor to pay for this book. And that means you need to convince the editor that your work is different than the other 500 novels being queried today.

Here's the short list of what an editor asks when they see your work from the editors at Dutton:

1. Who is the readership for this book?

2. Does this story surprise me and take me to places I didn’t expect?

3. Is this a main character I care about?

4. Am I personally moved by this story or situation?

5. I this a theme/emotion/concern that a lot of kids/readers will be able to relate to?

6. Has this been done a million times before?

7. Will I want to read this manuscript ten (or more) times?

8. Is the voice/character authentic and real?

9. For picture books: Would this story be visually interesting for 32 pages? Could I easily envision the illustrations for this?

10. For novels: Does the action of the story move at a good pace and hold our interest? Does tension build as the story moves forward?


Does your manuscript pass?

How do you judge for yourself if your manuscripts passes or is this something you need to share with a Crit Partner?

Photo courtesy of and copyright to Upstart Crow Literary.


  1. Heh, none of my MS are anywhere near being readable even once.

    Of course even you have a technically perfect, deep, moving, original, mind-blowing novel that has no flaws... it's still going to end up a matter of taste.


    But a good post, L. Thanks.

  2. Excellent post! It's timely for me right now, especially. I'll be editing soon and I know the real work will begin.

    Thanks for the key questions, I will keep them handy.

  3. I'm hoping it passes. It's getting there. I guess I'll see soon enough.

  4. I saw this list on twitter. I wish more pub houses would offer lists like this!

    Angela, who is neck deep in editing.

  5. Okay, my MS is out to CPs at the moment, but still this list (which I've seen something similar to before) STILL makes my stomach drop! God, who knows if it will EVER be ready to go out...


  6. Fab list! Definitely something to keep to hand for those edits.

  7. Good list - especially as I'm in revision hell at the moment! My beautiful painting is not just under lace but a load of plot murk...