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tko
08-03-2012, 12:23 AM
How perfect does a submission need to be from a typographical (grammar, spelling, format) point of view?

The standard answer might be that it needs to be as perfect as you can make it. But that's not a very complete answer. We all know that even if you've read your work aloud 10 times there's going to be errors. That's why the services of an editor, a copy editor, and a proof reader are typically used for the finally published work. Expensive, and I doubt most authors are going to pay for all three in a review copy.

So, given limited resources, how far do you go to proof your own work, realistically? And what level of dumb mistakes w/an agent let pass? A couple per chapter?

Last time I read my novel aloud 3 times, then sent it to a proof reader. Later on I still found some mistakes.

Corinne Duyvis
08-03-2012, 01:29 AM
1. Until it starts detracting from the reading experience,

OR

2. Until it looks like you're sloppy and didn't put in the work.

Errors happen even in completed books, after dozens of read-throughs. As long as you make sure to give the final version a very thorough read before you send it out, you're probably fine.

Old Hack
08-03-2012, 01:33 AM
It has to be so clean that the problems in it don't cancel out the brilliance of your premise and your voice.

If you've got a brilliant premise and voice, and can tell a story like nobody's business, you can probably get away with more. But if someone else submits a similarly brilliant story at the same time as you do, and their manuscript is cleaner than yours, you'll probably lose out to them.

katci13
08-03-2012, 01:44 AM
Ditto.

I once read over something 8 times and was STILL finding missing words. And I can't get through a single published book without finding at least one mistake.

VoireyLinger
08-03-2012, 07:50 AM
As perfect as you can make it. Agents and editors know that no one is perfect, that errors and typos will happen. They don't want to see a big ol' mess, but some mistakes are bound to happen.

Jericho McKraven
08-03-2012, 08:17 AM
I like this question and will counter with my own! Do you NEED a professional editor in order to have a fully polished manuscript?

Or is self editing, and having proof readers enough to give you a gleaming story? (Assuming your proof readers are intelligent adults who will recognize grammatical errors, "plot holes" and inconsistencies.)

Terie
08-03-2012, 09:47 AM
I like this question and will counter with my own! Do you NEED a professional editor in order to have a fully polished manuscript?

Or is self editing, and having proof readers enough to give you a gleaming story? (Assuming your proof readers are intelligent adults who will recognize grammatical errors, "plot holes" and inconsistencies.)

You should be able to get your manuscript into submission-ready shape on your own. This is what professional writers do.

There are a few exceptions to this (such as people with visual disabilities), but for the most part, you should not ever need to hire someone to get your manuscript into shape.

Among other things, if your manuscript is contracted, you'll still have to make changes, and the publisher will expect the changes to be of the same quality as the manuscript.

This is all part of Yog's law: Money flows TO the writer.

Old Hack
08-03-2012, 10:05 AM
I agree with Terie.

However, I've seen several writers use editorial consultancies to great effect.

If you just respond to their suggestions and then forget all they said, it's probably not using them. If you apply their suggestions to all that you write, and learn from the experience, then you might well find a good editorial agency very helpful indeed.

But be warned: there are plenty of people offering editorial services out there who don't have the skills you need, and might well do more harm than good to your work. Be very careful if you decide to use one.

quicklime
08-03-2012, 06:24 PM
how many red flags you can withstand depends on the strength of the novel.....which is why the mantra is to make it the best it can be. Maybe you won't catch everything, but the more you catch, the better.

WeaselFire
08-03-2012, 06:37 PM
To me, if you're asking this question, your submission isn't perfect yet. You have to revise it until there is no doubt as to it being perfect.

Jeff

Katrina S. Forest
08-03-2012, 06:49 PM
By limited resources, you mean money or time? I would not spend money for simple copyediting. As it's been said, unless you have a visual disability that might keep you from spotting things, you can find errors yourself. Or you can ask a beta-reader to look it over for grammar only.

If time is your limited resource, well, at least you're not alone. :)

For whatever it's worth, here's some things I do to reassure myself before submitting:

A final spellcheck. I can't count the number of times I made a last-second surface edit and inserted a typo in the process.

A search for the worst offending errors. For me, I'll search the ms for any instances of "form," because odds are, I meant "from." I'll also search for the word, "public," as I left the L out once, and I really don't want to repeat that typo.

A slow re-read of a randomly selected paragraph, which almost always proves to be in very nice shape despite my paranoia.

When all this is done, I save the file and forbid myself from opening or touching it while on submission. Once it's out there, it's done. Nothing I can do about it.

Susan Littlefield
08-03-2012, 06:52 PM
To me, if you're asking this question, your submission isn't perfect yet. You have to revise it until there is no doubt as to it being perfect.

Jeff

Jeff, do you mean "perfect" as in the best you can make it, or "perfect" as in not one single error anywhere?

If it's the latter, that will never happen. I guarantee you, no person has ever created a 100% perfect manuscript. People are human.

The point is to make it the best that you can. :)

quicklime
08-03-2012, 06:57 PM
Jeff, do you mean "perfect" as in the best you can make it, or "perfect" as in not one single error anywhere?

If it's the latter, that will never happen. I guarantee you, no person has ever created a 100% perfect manuscript. People are human.

The point is to make it the best that you can. :)


worse, anyone convinced their work is "perfect" is usually in serious trouble.

the hard part is figuring out when you're still making meaningful changes in one work, or better off turning it loose. But yes, the best one CAN make it....always. Control what you can; there's plenty of risks out there you cannot.

Jamesaritchie
08-03-2012, 08:22 PM
I never have believed the excuse that you can read something ten times and still miss things. In a novel length manuscript, sure, maybe four or five spelling and grammatical errors will slip through, and this is fine, but when more than this slip through, the writer is either careless, or doesn't know grammar well enough to see the mistakes.

Jamesaritchie
08-03-2012, 08:29 PM
Jeff, do you mean "perfect" as in the best you can make it, or "perfect" as in not one single error anywhere?

If it's the latter, that will never happen. I guarantee you, no person has ever created a 100% perfect manuscript. People are human.

The point is to make it the best that you can. :)

Well, again, it depends on what you mean by "perfect". I've never seen a manuscript that didn't have a few things that could be made better. It may be sentences here and there that need tightening, or need cut altogether, it may be a bit of dialogue that doesn't say what should be said, it may be a minor character who needs to be cut, etc., but a few things do need changed.

I have, however, seen many, many manuscripts that had zero spelling errors, zero grammattical errors, and had perfect formatting.

tko
08-03-2012, 08:42 PM
Since I've read NYT best sellers with up to three errors (that I found,) perfection is an illusive goal. An ordinary writer, working on his own, could never even achieve this.

The standard "get it perfect" advice isn't realistic.


Jeff, do you mean "perfect" as in the best you can make it, or "perfect" as in not one single error anywhere?

If it's the latter, that will never happen. I guarantee you, no person has ever created a 100% perfect manuscript. People are human.

The point is to make it the best that you can. :)

tko
08-03-2012, 08:52 PM
Which many of you have participated in.

http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=251127

"To get a novel to the level of polish and correctness to which readers are accustomed, you'll need, as Old Hack says, an editor, a copyeditor, and a proofreader. Ideally these would be three different people."

So, on one hand I'm being advised I can't get it perfect by myself. On the other hand, I'm being told it must be perfect at a point in the process where I probably haven't hired any independent help yet. Both positions can't be correct.

quicklime
08-03-2012, 09:32 PM
Which many of you have participated in.

http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=251127

"To get a novel to the level of polish and correctness to which readers are accustomed, you'll need, as Old Hack says, an editor, a copyeditor, and a proofreader. Ideally these would be three different people."

So, on one hand I'm being advised I can't get it perfect by myself. On the other hand, I'm being told it must be perfect at a point in the process where I probably haven't hired any independent help yet. Both positions can't be correct.



you're going all Rain Man on this. Literal isn't your friend, unless you like friends who tie you up in useless knots and prevent you doing anything.


you SHOULD do everything you can do; and you should be very honest about if you're really doing that. Nobody is guaranteed to catch everything, but knowing that, and using it to potentially excuse slack-assery, is an almost certain kiss of death. Will you get everything? Maybe never. Will a lackluster attempt to get anything stick out, sorely? Yes.

Fix what you can. EVERYTHING you can. That's not really that hard--you're some sort of science guy as I recall, exactly what do you do prior to launch in any product you develop/experiment you design/etc? Surely you don't say "well, I've seen plenty of calculation errors, so for my next experiment, fuck math completely."

Little Ming
08-03-2012, 09:49 PM
I like this question and will counter with my own! Do you NEED a professional editor in order to have a fully polished manuscript?

Or is self editing, and having proof readers enough to give you a gleaming story? (Assuming your proof readers are intelligent adults who will recognize grammatical errors, "plot holes" and inconsistencies.)

Here's the opinion of one publisher about hiring a professional editor.

http://behlerblog.com/2012/05/09/heres-the-thing-about-independent-editors/

http://behlerblog.com/2012/03/27/my-manuscript-has-been-professionally-edited/



Which many of you have participated in.

http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=251127

"To get a novel to the level of polish and correctness to which readers are accustomed, you'll need, as Old Hack says, an editor, a copyeditor, and a proofreader. Ideally these would be three different people."

So, on one hand I'm being advised I can't get it perfect by myself. On the other hand, I'm being told it must be perfect at a point in the process where I probably haven't hired any independent help yet. Both positions can't be correct.

This thread is about getting it "perfect" enough to submit to an agent (I assumed). The thread you just linked to is about getting it "perfect" enough to self-publish. These are two different types of "perfect."

FabricatedParadise
08-03-2012, 09:50 PM
Which many of you have participated in.

http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=251127

"To get a novel to the level of polish and correctness to which readers are accustomed, you'll need, as Old Hack says, an editor, a copyeditor, and a proofreader. Ideally these would be three different people."

So, on one hand I'm being advised I can't get it perfect by myself. On the other hand, I'm being told it must be perfect at a point in the process where I probably haven't hired any independent help yet. Both positions can't be correct.

I can tell you, as a professional editor (both freelance and with a publisher), that you cannot possibly make your MS perfect. But, the good news is, we (editors and agents) know this.

Personally, if the voice is strong and the technical grasp of the English language is good, I can handle even as much as a handful of mistakes per page on a submission. I'm not talking about obvious grammatical issues (like misused participle phrases - my pet peeve), but more like missing commas, etc. If you don't forget or misplace a comma every now and then, you're a machine.

We do however expect it to be clean and polished to the point that when there is an occasional mistake, we can say "oh that's obviously a mistake". Beta readers with a good knowledge of standard grammatical rules will be able to help you, but you should make at least two passes on your entire MS on your own. You won't catch everything in one pass.

My opinion is that if you are planning to publish through a house, you should only hire a freelance copy editor if you've received feedback suggesting you work on your technical command of the language, or if you know your grammar and/ or story-crafting skills are subpar. If you receive feedback that perhaps you have a sagging middle, or plot holes, what you need is a content/ developmental editor.

If you're planning to self-pub (which obviously the OP is not planning to do), yes, absolutely hire an editor, a content and a copy editor, both.

But the average Joe Writer who plans to sub to agents and publishers, does not need one. Everything you need to know about editing your own work can be found online, on publishers websites, agent blogs, etc.

If anyone needs good resources, I would be happy to provide some of my favorites.

ETA - If you do hire an editor, always ALWAYS check him or her out first. Make sure the editor has experience editing in your genre and if you ask, a good, honest editor will do a sample edit on a few pages, so you can see what you're paying for before officially hiring them. Some even offer it as a standard practice.

tko
08-04-2012, 12:33 AM
Thanks. That's what my gut was telling me, but I wanted to hear someone say it.

I dunno. A lot of stuff like "make your work perfect" is nebulous to me. Like giving 110%. OK, OK, it means try hard. But at some point you have to move ahead.

Did you know mathematicians have different orders of infinity, unlike us more ordinary souls? Infinity plus infinity is still infinity, but infinity squared is something more.

Now I've learned agents have different levels of perfection http://absolutewrite.com/forums/images/icons/icon12.gif

Katrina S. Forest
08-04-2012, 12:51 AM
Did you know mathematicians have different orders of infinity, unlike us more ordinary souls? Infinity plus infinity is still infinity, but infinity squared is something more.

My other half has tried to explain this to me a couple times and it still makes no sense. :)

On topic, I do believe you can read something many times and still miss errors. Or rather, at a certain point, you begin reciting the sentence in your head instead of reading what's on the page. But unless you're aware that's happening and take steps to avoid it, you won't know the difference.

Unimportant
08-04-2012, 01:13 AM
"To get a novel to the level of polish and correctness to which readers are accustomed, you'll need, as Old Hack says, an editor, a copyeditor, and a proofreader. Ideally these would be three different people."
Those three different people all work at your publisher. So the version of the book that your publisher contracts from you and the version that readers see will be different, having gone through those three people.

The point is that it's very unlikely you, the author, have the skills to get it to that point. It's why the publisher has those people on staff. If you're self-publishing, you'll need to be (or hire) those people.

eqb
08-04-2012, 01:32 AM
Which many of you have participated in.

http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=251127



That thread is from the Self-Publishing Forum. In other words, that advice about hiring editors, copyeditors, etc. does not apply if you are submitting to trade publishers.

thothguard51
08-04-2012, 01:39 AM
To me, if you're asking this question, your submission isn't perfect yet. You have to revise it until there is no doubt as to it being perfect.

Jeff

Perfect is subjective to individual acceptance of what is perfect...

Susan Littlefield
08-04-2012, 06:00 AM
Well, again, it depends on what you mean by "perfect". I've never seen a manuscript that didn't have a few things that could be made better. It may be sentences here and there that need tightening, or need cut altogether, it may be a bit of dialogue that doesn't say what should be said, it may be a minor character who needs to be cut, etc., but a few things do need changed.

I have, however, seen many, many manuscripts that had zero spelling errors, zero grammattical errors, and had perfect formatting.

I am sure it must be rare to see those manuscripts with no spelling and grammatical erros and perfect formatting. I think I mean a manuscript that can be sent straight to the publishing house because it's that perfect. :)

blacbird
08-04-2012, 08:05 AM
Issues of story structure, character development, etc., are always subjective. Getting "its" v. "it's" right isn't. Likewise "there" v. "their", or "hear" v. "here", etc. Which doesn't even mention pure typographical errors. You need not to have so many of these latter little things wrong that they make a bad moon rise in the reading experience of the person you submit to. One or two of these kinds of things on virtually every page will likely deep-six your manuscript after about ten pages, even if the agent/editor is interested enough to read on after the first page. Let's face it: Lack of attention to these small, easily-fixed things is commonly taken as a sign of lack of attention to the bigger things in a manuscript.

Be ye careful about the small things, and don't make excuses for failing to do so.

caw

Jamesaritchie
08-04-2012, 11:19 PM
I am sure it must be rare to see those manuscripts with no spelling and grammatical erros and perfect formatting. I think I mean a manuscript that can be sent straight to the publishing house because it's that perfect. :)

Well, perfect is as perfect does. There really is no reason to let spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors make it into a manuscript. Some here and there harms nothing, but it's wrong to say a writer can't catch them all.

But "perfect" in story and character really is highly subjective. I don't think I've ever seen a manuscript that didn't have something I thought needed changed, reworked, or even cut, but I can say the same thing about published novels.

There are exceptions to everything, but for the most part, editors do not take bad novels and turn them into good novels. An editor looks for novels that are already very good, and offers suggestions to make them better.

It's true that almost any manuscript will benefit by a proofread to clear up typos and the like, but it's also true that a lot of writers hand in manuscripts that could go the the printer just as they are. Editors take good novels, and with some help from the writer, try to make them better novels, but unless the novel is very nearly publishable as is, or is publishable as is, there usually isn't much an editor can do except ask for a rewrite/revision.

Many novels come in that don't need rewriting or revision, that are good enough to be published as is, even though the editor will offer suggestions to make them even better.

"Perfect" is just not a good choice of words. Unpublished or published, no novel is perfect, and the best you can usually achieve is Good Enough.

WeaselFire
08-04-2012, 11:53 PM
Jeff, do you mean "perfect" as in the best you can make it, or "perfect" as in not one single error anywhere?
Perfect, as in you know it's perfect. You're wrong, of course, but if you aren't convinced it's perfect, as far as you are able, then you need to run through it again.

For those who never feel it's perfect, that's an issue you'll need to overcome if you're ever going to submit.

There's a belief (Japanese?) that perfection can only be achieved by God (whatever god that may be...), therefor, if your work is perfect you have to introduce a flaw or insult God. I've never had the need to introduce any flaws... :)

Jeff

WeaselFire
08-04-2012, 11:56 PM
Literal isn't your friend, unless you like friends who tie you up in useless knots and prevent you doing anything.

50 Shades strikes again... :)

Jeff

austen
08-05-2012, 07:52 AM
worse, anyone convinced their work is "perfect" is usually in serious trouble.

the hard part is figuring out when you're still making meaningful changes in one work, or better off turning it loose. But yes, the best one CAN make it....always. Control what you can; there's plenty of risks out there you cannot.
I agree. I think I could have beta-read my book into oblivion, but I finally decided I had to take the leap and send it out. I'm sure there's mistakes that I didn't pick up on through my numerous rereads, but I am happy with the story and the plot. At some point, you have to stop fiddling.

Susan Littlefield
08-05-2012, 08:36 AM
"Perfect" is just not a good choice of words. Unpublished or published, no novel is perfect, and the best you can usually achieve is Good Enough.



Perfect, as in you know it's perfect. You're wrong, of course, but if you aren't convinced it's perfect, as far as you are able, then you need to run through it again.



Thank you, James and Jeff. :)