by Karin Beery
As the managing editor for Guiding Light Women’s Fiction at Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, I’ve received manuscript submissions in all states of readiness, from “let’s get this contracted” to “let me recommend an editor.” There are a few writing issues that transcend manuscript readiness though. The next time you’re hired to edit a novel manuscript,—if you can help your author fix these areas, you’re giving your author a leg up.
- No introduction. With so much emphasis on starting a story with action, many writers are skipping the introduction to jump right into the plot. Don’t. Reader/character connections happen in the first act. If your author skipped the intro, point it out.
- Starting at the wrong place. This goes hand in hand with no introduction. Most manuscripts either start too early (backstory) or too late (no introduction), especially in women’s fiction and romance. Most new writers can’t yet see that fine line between too late and too early; you can help them find it.
- Too many genres. Historical romantic suspense novels with speculative fiction elements won’t appeal to readers of each of those genres; it will only appeal to people who read all of them, and that’s a small number. Blending two genres can work, but unless your author is already a master writer, they should stick with one or two.
- Wrong genre. Romance novels aren’t necessarily women’s fiction novels and vice versa. Make sure you understand genres so you can point your author in the right direction.
- Omniscient POV slips. If all of the characters (men, women, and children) describe things the same way, it’s not third person POV, it’s omniscient with a narrator’s voice. Each character needs to have a distinct voice. If they don’t, it’s omniscient. It may be a pretty voice, but the reader/character connection is often weaker in omniscient POV. In genre fiction, lead your author to deep third POV. (Christian women’s fiction can sometimes be an exception.)
I still see other issues in manuscripts—too much telling, head hopping, too many ellipses—but these five errors keep popping up in all varieties of manuscripts. By being aware of them and helping your author fix these problems, you’ll help your author’s manuscript stand out in a good way.
Owner of Write Now Editing, Karin Beery is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers and the Christian Editor Network, where she teaches several editing classes through the PEN Institute and serves as the coordinator for the Christian Editor Connection. She is the Managing Editor of Guiding Light Women’s Fiction, an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Her sophomore novel, Practically Married, is a 2020 INSPY Award semi-finalist.