Editing, My point of view, Tips, Writing

Write the Novel — Fifth (and Final) Edit

This is it. We’re so close to finishing the  novel we can taste it. Remember that books are never finished, they are only abandoned at interesting places, and it’s time we abandon this one.

The fifth edit has only one task and one question

  • The Task: have a commercial printer print the updated copy and bind it. Sit down and read for enjoyment, as if this was a book we’d bought, been given, or checked out of the library.
  • The Question: Was this a good read?

The hardest thing at this point is to not tinker. Yes, tidy up any glaring errors, but resist the urge to tinker. We are finished with this book until we get it out there, find it a home, and talk to our new editor.

Do we have a publisher waiting for this manuscript?

  • If we do, contact the publisher. Are there any changes since the most recent guidelines were distributed? Do our final format changes to match the publisher’s requirements.
  • If we don’t have a publisher yet, find a recent standard formatting guide and stick to it. On the Style Sheet indicate which formatting guide was used as a reference.

Final Formatting

  • Make sure that the Style Sheet is complete and correct.
  • Make sure we have all needed permissions in writing.
  • Go over all supplemental material like dedication, introduction, acknowledgment, and synopsis one more time. Make sure our submission package is complete.
  • Format all material consistent with the publishers requirements or any other guide we are using.
  • Do a final grammar check. Pay attention to punctuation marks, especially commas, semi-colons and quotation marks. Here’s Nick Stockton’s recent WIRED blog that explains why our brain misses errors in material we’ve already looked at over and over and over. Unfortunately, it only tells us why it happens, not what to do about it. One step at a time.
  • Do a final spelling check.
  • Do a final word count.
  • Have a final hard copy commercially printed, single-side only for our archives
  • Copy the final, complete, and formatted draft to our back-up discs. Again make 3 discs, one to keep, one to have someone locally keep, and one to have someone who lives at least 500 miles way keep.


  • Write a cover letter.
  • Go looking for a publisher.

Archive all material

  • Go through all electronic and print material. Decide what can be deleted and what should be archived.
  • Cull unnecessary archival material.
  • If this is a series, determine what needs to be brought forward into the files for the next book.

This is a good place to take a vacation.

And, that’s what I’m doing. This concludes my 2014 series on Writing a Novel. Thanks for hanging in for the entire year. Next week, Tuesday, December 30, I’m taking a break. See you back for 2015 on Tuesday, January 6th for the start of a new topic. Still working on what that topic will be.

Happy New Year everyone.