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In this article, we’ll explore some techniques you can use to make sure your novel is as close to perfection as possible before you send it out into the world.
This includes ways to get distance to view it with fresh eyes, and also the benefits of getting external feedback.
Get some distance
The first thing to do is get some distance from your manuscript, so you have a fighting chance of reading it with fresh eyes. Ideally, take at least two weeks without looking at it or thinking about it at all.
Once the time has passed, go back for a final read through.
Print it out
This is another way of getting distance and emulating having fresh eyes. The words simply look different on a different medium, and you’ll be surprised at how many things you will spot that you skimmed over on the screen a hundred times.
Changing the font is another way to make it feel another level removed.
Read it out loud
Reading out the text is a great way to identify weaknesses in rhythm and clunky words and sentences. Even if you don’t have the time or inclination to read out the entire novel, at least do it for the first few chapters.
Use an editing program
There are several online editing tools you can use which will identify common issues with your writing and advise you on how to improve.
They can highlight extra long sentences, sticky words, ambiguous grammar and much more.
Our favourite is ProWritingAid, which you can find out more about here.
The only thing better than faking having fresh eyes – is actually having fresh eyes!
Getting feedback on your work is invaluable.
Other readers will be able to tell you how your words are coming across in a way that is completely impossible for you - as the writer - to do.
If you’re excited by this idea, then great – we list some options below.
However, if the idea of sharing your work with others fills you with dread, try hard to overcome that, because not getting outside input is doing yourself a great disservice.
You’ll be much better off getting feedback at this stage, when you can do something about it, rather than submitting your novel to agents or self-publishing platforms and only learning too late about glaring weaknesses that you could easily have fixed.
There are two main options for getting critique: face-to-face and online.
Face-to-face critique circles
If you’re able to access a face-to-face critique group, this is arguably the best option, as you’re able to explore in much more nuance how your work is coming across, where it’s working and where it’s not.
You should be able to find local writing critique groups in your area by searching online.
There are many online communities where you can get feedback from other writers from across the globe. One we particularly like is Scribophile as they work very hard to ensure good quality critique and a positive culture.
Paid critique / editorial services
It is possible get feedback and critique from industry professionals. Writing industry events sometimes offer one to one sessions with agents and other publishing professionals, where they will read your work or listen to your pitch and let you know how it came across, what they liked and what they didn’t.
You can also hire a professional editor or literary consultancy to give you feedback on all or part of your work.
Both of the above options are extremely valuable, but can be very costly so are not a viable option for everyone.
Not all critique is equal
If you’re new to critique, it’s important to know that that not all critique is equal.
Critique should not be demoralizing
Good critique will point out your areas for improvement without belittling you for them – no matter where you are in your writing journey.
If you feel you are receiving critique that is unkind or demoralising, then don’t feel you have to stoically endure it. If someone is giving negative critique and in any way putting you down, then that person is not fit to give critique and you should keep your distance.
Good critique should make you enthused about making improvements, not feel bad about not being perfect.
Critique should not be pandering
Having said that, critique does need to do more than just tell you how wonderful you are. That might be nice if you like that sort of thing, but it’s not going to help you become a better writer. For this reason, non-writer friends and your mum are not recommended for critique.
Also, if you find a critique group where the focus is on back-patting rather than skills improvement, you’ll probably be better off continuing your search.
You need a range of opinions
Getting feedback from only one person can be very problematic, because writing and reading is so subjective.
Try to avoid making changes to your work based on the feedback of a single person – wait until you have heard from at least three, but ideally five or more.
Once you’ve received feedback from a range of different people, you will have a better idea about which are genuine issues that will be experienced by the majority of readers, and which are simply an individual’s personal niggle.
Call it done
Eventually, after you’ve let it settle, printed it out, read it out, shown it to your peers and processed the feedback, read it again, read it again and read it again, you’ll come to a point when you realise you’re just adding and removing the same comma on each run through.
When that’s the case, it’s time to call it done and move onto the next stage.
Releasing your baby into the world.
In the Novel Factory, complete the Final Draft of your novel in the Manuscript section. Use the Characters, Locations, Plot Manager, Subplot Manager, Notes and other sections to assist you in making your final draft as smooth and tight as possible.
Alternatively, use the word processor of your choice.