What a difference a page makes!

I’m actually being completely honest.

If you’ve never worked with a traditional publisher, the editorial process is something like this: you get an editorial letter from your editor telling you what’s great about your book and what needs improvement. You hit your manuscript and shoot it back to your editor. The initial global edits can be pretty extensive (I once deleted half of the book during this stage) or minor (I once changed two scenes). Depending on how many changes you make to the initial edits, you and your editor bounce your manuscript back and forth as a Word document a few times. As the changes get increasingly smaller, your editor will probably stops sending long formal letters and start adding small, trackable comments in the margins of your Word doc.

Then, when you’ve nailed the manuscript, it gets put through InDesign. Afterward, you get sent first (and sometimes second) pass pages for final copyedits. At this point, the book’s formatted. It looks like it’s going to when it’s bound and shelved in libraries and bookstores…

And it will feel completely different. I guarantee it.

I know with my own manuscripts, during the writing and (global) editorial process, I’d always been looking at a computer screen or computer paper…and no book is that size. Not one. They’re all smaller. Sometimes, a lot smaller (most of my traditionally pubbed books are 5X8). So after going through InDesign, my books’ paragraphs got longer. A lot longer. Pages featured fewer paragraphs. Chapters sometimes felt reeeeaaaally long.

In short, there was a different rhythm.

Now, after I feel I’m through with the big changes, I plug my own manuscripts into InDesign, using a common trim size for the genre. This gives me a better sense of what the final flow will feel like. I can identify and cut down long sentences and wordy phrases. I can further whittle down paragraphs and chapters. I can really see where the fat is that needs to be trimmed.

Reformatting a manuscript in this manner is also a great way to identify typos or copyedit, too. You go over your own manuscript so many times, you practically  memorize it. Reformatting makes it look different so the mistakes are easier to recognize.

Of course, you don’t have to use InDesign. You might compile into an .epub or .mobi to read on your e-reader, or you could simply adjust the margins in Word. But a smaller, more realistic trim size can do a world of good when you hit the final stages of revision.

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