Spring Cleaning your Manuscript

April 22, 2015 by Erin E. M. Hatton

This is the time of year we start to think about spring cleaning: washing those windows to let in the sunshine, dusting away those cobwebs around the ceiling, scrubbing stubborn grime—taking care of those pesky little things that build up over time.

What about that manuscript you’re working on, or the one that’s been sitting on your computer gathering digital dust? Here’s a spring cleaning checklist to help you out with your editing.

Washing the Windows:

How can I bring a little more light to this manuscript?

*Is there a different Point of View I can use for this scene?
*What would happen if A happened instead of B?
*What is the character seeing/hearing/smelling/feeling/tasting in this moment?
*Does the character have a hidden motivation for acting this way?
*How can I make this emotion more intense?
*Is there a way to raise the stakes in this situation?

Dusting the Cobwebs:

What are the things that are making this manuscript seem old and tired?

*Are my sentences nicely varied in length?
*Is the dialogue too “on the nose”?
*Is this plot move predictable?
*Am I taking enough risks?
*How can I show more and tell less?

Cleaning Stubborn Grime:

Where are the bad habits I need to scrub away?

*Am I overusing dialogue tags?
*Do I repeat myself?
*Is my grammar and spelling correct?
*Did I keep character and setting details consistent?
*Are there any lurking clichés?


This isn’t an exhaustive list, but I hope it helps get you inspired to tidy up your manuscript. Happy spring cleaning!

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About this Contributor

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Erin E.M. Hatton is the author of Otherworld and Across the Deep, winner of the 2014 Free Publishing Contest for Fiction. She has also authored several short stories and novellas. She graduated from Redeemer University College and lives in Barrie, Ontario with her husband Kevin and four children.
Learn more about Erin:
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