I finally get to share with you the news that I've finished reviewing my manuscript post manuscript appraisal, and it's now gone back to the team to see what they think. Over the last three months, I've been enhancing my manuscript based on the recommendations the editor gave me. Now that I've finished, I wanted to share with you how I approached my manuscript appraisal in the hopes it might show you a little bit more about what goes on when writing a book and the journey that's involved in bringing a book to life.
When you get a manuscript appraisal, sit back, relax, and just casually read through it all first.
What to do when you receive your manuscript appraisal (well, what I did)
Get a tea, sit back, relax, read the whole thing
The first thing I did when I got my manuscript appraisal back was make one of my favourite hot drinks, get comfy somewhere, and just sit and read the whole report. At this stage, I wasn't worrying about processing anything, making notes, or figuring out what I was going to action. It was just getting an idea of everything the editing team thought and an overall view of the whole thing. No worrying about all the work that was involved, no worrying about anything, in fact. It was really refreshing to get an idea of what a professional thought of my manuscript.
Analyse and group the feedback
I treat writing my books a little like business projects: planning, actioning, reviewing, updating, repeat. So, once I'd read the whole appraisal, I then went back to analyse and group the feedback I'd been given so I could identify the points to enhance it.
Turn the feedback into actionable lists
Once I'd analysed and grouped the feedback from my manuscript appraisal, I then wrote myself two types of actionable lists directly into the document I wrote my manuscript in. One was a list of everything that needed to be worked on throughout the manuscript, e.g. checking I had character descriptions in a logical place when we first met them, continued character descriptions throughout the book, revealing character thoughts on settings or economic details on the settings, ensuring character accents were strong throughout. Then, at the start of every chapter, I wrote little lists of things that were relevant for that particular chapter, e.g. revisit age of character here, why did this person do this thing here, and mention this bit earlier on too to add hints to this plot point.
Having these actionable lists (one to visit in the whole doc and one for me to review in each chapter) made it obvious the things I had to achieve before sending the manuscript back to the team.
Lists, lists, lists. So much to action. You'd not believe how many post-it notes I have ALL over my desk.
Time to action those lists! The adding stage.
Now that I had planned my approach to the appraisal and had my lists, I would read the overall points to make sure I had a clear understanding of what to add to the whole book, and then I worked chapter by chapter on the little lists I'd identified for that chapter. As I finished an item from that list, I deleted it. Thus I continued until the whole list was deleted from that chapter, and then I moved on. Now and then I'd leave one open if I wanted to revisit it and check it later at a time I'd do a run-through of the whole manuscript, but generally I was pretty good at finalising all the points before moving on.
It was a long process, but I did find it fun to run through the manuscript again chapter by chapter, sometimes taking it apart a lot, other times having to carefully decide where to insert details and rewording sections, other times just checking a few little details. I must admit it was really enjoyable to see chapters that had little to no direct points to action, so I was able to review it with just the 'overall' points I'd gathered for the whole manuscript.
I must admit, this part took a very long time! With only an hour or so each day to action it before work, sometimes being able to give myself time after work too, the days passed quickly, as did the weeks and months.
I loved how my friends sent me nerdy sword gifs when I was in the word cutting stage!
The read-through, tightening up, word count reduction, cutting, finalising
Once the weeks had flown by and I was sure I'd actioned all the points I'd identified and analysed from the editorial team from their appraisal, both from the list of overall points and ones specific to each chapter, I was finally ready to work through and tighten it up.
I work very much on the 'add absolutely everything and more and THEN go back through it and tighten it up and remove content'. That way, I can be sure that, hopefully, everything left is absolutely necessary and I'm not fighting to add content. I love overwriting and then cutting, and it was a LOT of cutting. I'd gone over my planned word count by tens of thousands, again, just like before the appraisal process, so I knew it would involve a lot of tweaking and fiddling.
Step one of the cutting stage was, of course, planning and analysing. I looked at the main plot points and which chapters were included in each plot point and figured out that each section had to be roughly the same word count to make it flow well. Then, I figured out how many words I had to cut from each section to make them similar in word count. THEN, I figured out how many words on average I had to cut from each chapter in that section. It was scary but less overwhelming than one huge, solid number. With it down to merely hundreds (or over a thousand in some cases) of words per chapter, I was ready to go.
Then, once again, I went through chapter by chapter, reading it and deciding any huge chunks that could go, being strict on 'does this go towards the overall story or plot?' It was hard, but it helped me cut huge chunks at times, like scenes or paragraphs. Then, I could look at a finer level, cutting sentences, cutting words, shifting sentences around to say the same thing but in a more refined, smooth way. I looked for repetition not just in words but in essence in sentences or paragraphs. Some times I reached my word cutting goal, others I sorely missed it, but I was positive that each decision I made was for the greater good of the overall book: anything I kept was for the benefit of the book, anything that wasn't kept didn't need to be there, and other things I refined were better for it.
Am I? Who knows! I can't wait to find out what's next. Stay tuned to find out more.
My thoughts on my manuscript appraisal process
It was a long time. Of course, I'd gone into it thinking I could be done in just a couple of months, but it took closer to three. But, of course, the time it takes doesn't matter, it's how I feel about the result. I really enjoyed working on the appraisal; the team gave me great feedback, it gave me the chance to add details and life and culture where I'd originally been hesitant, and I got to refine the text I did have and add some really cool scenes and develop some of the relationships that I thought may have been too much, but actually that the team said it would be good to see. So, overall, it was hard work that was fun and paid off, though I will admit I'm glad to have a bit of a brain break from it now! I'll be ready to look at it again with fresh eyes whatever happens next.
I thought I'd share some of the word counts I've been working to so far to show you what's been happening. I'll keep you posted on these as the publishing process continues.
After first rough draft: 120,000 words
After rewriting, revisions, adding details: a whopping 175,000 words
After major cutting and self-editing: 135,000 words
Into appraisal: 135,000 words
After adding more details, revisions, adding a few extra scenes: 165,000 words
After more major cutting and self-editing: 149,000 words
Back into the manuscript appraisal team: 149,000 words
Now, I'm hoping to continue working on refining it and working with the editing team to see if we can get it closer to 140,000 words.
Either way, it's really fun to see the growth of book 1 of my adult fantasy Dynasty Codes series. To see how it's evolved from the first rough draft through all my self-editing stages to actually go into the team to review was a big step. But now, with their help to guide me even further and offer even further feedback, I already love how it's growing. Nothing's better for an author than having a strong editing team behind you.
Thanks, team <3
Let's see how it goes and what comes next!