Pub Rants

What’s In An Edit (Manuscript before Submission)

 14 Comments |  Share This:    

STATUS: Today was about working out the glitches in the new software. But I think we are finally done with that.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? CHICKENMAN by Indigo Girls

This weekend I was working on editing for current clients. I know this has been a question that I’ve received a couple of times at conferences. Do all agents edit their client manuscripts and how does that work?

Well, I can’t speak to all agents but this is how it works at my agency. This answer has several components and I actually only have time to handle one aspect of it in today’s entry. Tomorrow I’ll try and go into a bit more depth.

Let’s say I take on a brand new client who has never been published. When I read their full manuscript that I’ve offered representation for, I will usually do an edit with the client before it goes on submission.

Sometimes the manuscript is in great shape and just needs a few tweaks here and there. Sometimes it needs a bit more work (in plot or character—never in voice or in the quality of the writing) and I have that revision conversation while I’m offering representation so the client can have a good idea of what might be involved if they sign with me.

Seems only fair to know the scope…

Now, there are different approaches to editing as well. I have to be honest and say I’m not much of a line editor. I’m more of a big picture kind of gal, and I concentrate my edits on fixing plot issues, building character development, or just forcing the author to dig deeper into the writing and pull out all the stops their talent allows.

I do all my editing electronically in track changes in Word, so the manuscript can be sent by email. I add my comments directly into the scenes so the author can know and understand what I was thinking the moment I thought a revision point needed to be done.

Now, it’s always the author’s call if my editorial note is on target or not. I’ve been told that I will often highlight the problem but not necessarily the best solution and the author comes up with a better way to handle whatever I’ve pointed out.

And that’s just fine with me. It is the author’s work after all and he/she will always have final say.

I also edit obvious grammar and punctuation issues.

14 Responses

  1. Anonymous said:

    I found this entry very reassuring. I must admit that I had thought that if there were plot or character issues in a book, that would be the end of the line for it. I am really pleased to know that you dig deeper.

  2. Icarus said:

    Have you ever tried MSWord’s comment feature, instead of Track Changes? It’s ALT + I + M. I like it a lot better. It puts a little pink bubble on the right side of the page with your comment in it, with a line leading to the exact spot in the text it refers to. I like it because the comments are off to the side, not interfering with the continuity of the passage. Also, different readers can leave comments, and MSWord will automatically tag them by who left them.

    Open Office has a similar feature, though I don’t remember the shortcut off hand.

  3. Katie said:

    Thanks for this post! It’s very helpful. I’m especially pleased with your explanation of how/why you do the types that you do. Perfect!

  4. Julie Weathers said:

    I’m glad to hear you do this. Not that I intend not to have the manuscript as good as I can get it, but I just assumed most agents today would pass if there were any problems.

  5. Deborah said:

    Icarus – You can do that in track changes too. Tools>Options>Track Changes>Balloons. Just FYI.

    Excellent post! I find that when I get near to submission (to an agent) I really do need someone else’s eye on the manuscript. The way I figure it, having an agent willing to do some editing is icing =)

  6. ICQB said:

    An agent recently responded to a requested partial with lots of inserted comments (having to do with the protagonist) and an invite to rewrite and resubmit. I can’t tell you how helpful that is, and how much we writers appreciate even the smallest of scraps that are thrown to us in the way of comments/editing help.

    I once had an agent write a little comment in the margins of a form rejection that was really helpful – and very much appreciated.

    I’m sure your clients are appreciative for the edits/feedback. And thanks for the blog – I’ve learned a lot from it!

  7. karen-w-newton said:

    The more feedback, the better! I guess since editors are now too busy to edit, agents are filling the breach.

    Does anyone else beside me have trouble posting comments in Firefox? The “Leave your comment box” is too small to read the text, and there are no scroll bars. I have to use IE, which I dislike doing.

  8. Anonymous said:

    I’m really glad to know that ^.^

    And, no, Karen, Firefox is fine with me…

  9. Nancy Beck said:


    I’m using Firefox right now – no problems. The box isn’t as big as my monitor (I don’t think I’d want that anyway ;-)), and there are vertical scroll bars.

    You might want to check the Mozilla site for the latest version, if you don’t have it.

    Other than that…not sure why you’re having problems. (I hate Internet Exploder, too. :-))

    Great post.

  10. Unfocused Me said:

    It sounds like a lot of work, but it’s in the interests of the agent and the author to have the best (and most marketable) book possible before submitting it to publishers. Thanks for describing how you do this.

    As for posting comments in Firefox, it is a small box, but if I fill up the box and keep typing, the vertical scroll bar appears; there’s no scroll bar until I go past the bottom of the box. Good luck

  11. Natalie Hatch said:

    Oh my, I’m now going to go back and look over my manuscript again… but at least I know it’s not without hope. And thanks Icarus for the comments idea, I’m going to give it a go.
    Thanks for providing this blog, I’m certainly learning and making the necessary changes.