10 things I did to get my manuscript ready for submission

Me, if I were a cat.

I cannot believe I’m finally writing this article, but the day has come at last. This week my first novel, Life in the ‘Cosm, has gone out into publishingworldland. That’s right–I submitted my work.

It was no easy ride to get here and if anyone says writing is simple, they need to stand still while I wallop them with my Whacking Pillow. Don’t get me wrong; I’m totally loving this journey, and had a blast putting ‘Cosm together. However, getting the manuscript ready for submission took stamina. It’s a long way from the beta-reader draft to the submission-ready draft.

So, here’s what I did to get there. Perhaps you’ll find it helpful. (Or maybe you’ll point and laugh. That wouldn’t be really nice, by the way. Shame on you.)

1. Got some distance from my book.

Sometimes you and your book should agree to see other people. When my book was ready for beta-reviewers, I walked away from it. Eventually I was able to read other author’s stories and when I felt like writing, I began a second book. As the weeks went by over the summer, I had enough distance from my manuscript to look at it with a fresh set of eyes. By September, my beta-readers’ comments rolled in and I was ready to work.

2. Re-read the manuscript while wearing fuzzy socks.

Never underestimate the power of fuzzy socks. I put them on, cozied up in bed, and read my book as if I’d just purchased it from Amazon. I became a reader who enjoyed the story. At the same time, I discovered my inner editor. An interesting dichotomy arose, between loving the book and slashing it to bits. (Man, am I tough. Editor Cait needs a chill pill.)

3. Paid close attention to my beta-readers’ comments.

I highly recommend having beta-readers review your manuscript. They become your cheerleaders and harshest critics, and they are invaluable. I sincerely appreciated their feedback, and it was great to have unbiased opinions on the work. Some essential changes to the manuscript came from beta-reader comments. Thank you, folks!

4. Incorporated my edits until I wanted to punch myself in the face.

The beta-readers were mild compared to Editor Cait. I found over 100 nit-picky things in my “fuzzy-socks reading” step of this process. After I made those changes, Editor Cait went into Dalek mode, and started exterminating words like they were timelords. (Yes, I love Doctor Who. You have a problem with that?) For the first time in my life, I could say I truly, truly, truly hated myself. Don’t worry, I made up with myself again.

5. Got rid of useless words. Why, oh, why were there so many useless words?

I never knew I repeated myself so much. I never knew I repeated myself so much. We writers know the vital few useless words we should avoid, like they, really, very, that, and so on, but I had a few more. For some reason, now was everywhere. I felt like the general in Black Adder Goes Fourth. My writing was also full of the words now, well (which often went with now), oh, ever, and still.

And then there were the was statements. I wanted to bury myself underground when I came to that part of the editing process. Thankfully, Vladmir Nabokov saved my bacon. Did you know he had 1515 uses of the word was in the book, Lolita? From this I derived the Nabokov Quotient. If your “was statements” are less than 1515, then you’re book is lovely. Feel free to use this as an argument against your editor. Let me know how it goes.

6. Proofed one last time, but with help from Celia.

Celia is my best friend, and maybe also the British voice on my Google phone. By this time, I could no longer read my manuscript. The only way I could do the final proof was to listen to it. Google Play’s Read Aloud feature helped me immensely. There’s nothing like having a voice unlike your own read your book to you. I caught so many typos, or rewrote sentences that didn’t sound right. I love you, Celia!

7. Formatted the manuscript according to industry standard.

Thank goodness for the internet. I found the article, Format Your Novel for Submission by fiction writer Beth Hill, on Editor’s Blog. It provides key information about how a professional manuscript should appear, including what to include on the cover page.

‘Nuther tip! Make sure you do not add an empty line between paragraphs. Editors don’t like that, either. Format the style of your paragraph to allow for proper spacing.

8. Cried a little.

OK, maybe not cried, but I was kinda sorta nervous to send my first submission. I felt like a teenager wanting to ask the school hunk out to prom! I’ve over 20 years experience as a professional technical writer, and have spoken to and written to people all over the world. My documents have been slashed so much by editors’ red ink, the whole thing looked like a crime scene. Why so scared, Cait?

I suppose writing your first novel is not the same as publishing a user guide about a software application. My book is a part of me, and it’s a vulnerable thing to put yourself out there. Thankfully, I didn’t let the fear weigh me down.

9. Sent my manuscript off into the world.

Yup, I clicked the Send button three times this week. It felt fantastic.

I also remembered to double-check that I met the submission requirements. It’s vital to follow them to the letter. The last thing I want to do is tick off a publisher before they’ve even met me! I desire a business relationship with them, and one that is based on mutual respect. The least I can do is meet their requirements. It’s part of the first impression. Why be rejected for not giving publishers and agents what they ask?

10. Baked some muffins.

You better believe I did. I ate five, without shame. After all, they’re vegan muffins, so practically a fruit salad.

OK, so maybe that was a list of nine things, with the 10th thing being a pig-out reward. Stay tuned for more of my adventures and possibly misadventures in writing. Thanks for stopping by!


Cait Gordon has been a senior technical writer for high tech and government organizations. Her first novel is being sent to the universe. She hopes the universe likes it.

Cait is also Madam President of her consulting company, Dynamic Canvas Inc., Chief Crafter at Cait Cards, and works part time as Assistant to the Executive Director at H’Art of Ottawa. 

(Image, “Kitten Sleeping On The Printer” by Apolonia)

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