The steps between polishing and publishing.

The steps between polishing and publishing.
Photo courtesy of

The steps between polishing and publishing.

By David Joel Miller, writer, blogger, and mental health professional.

Once your manuscript is polished, you need to try on some other hats.

Having finished your manuscript and gotten feedback from a few friends and family, it’s very tempting to move forward with the publishing process. If your goal is to have more than a handful of close relatives read your book, there are several other steps that should occur between typing “the end” and the beginning of the publishing process.

You will need to take a break from your manuscript.

By the time you finish writing a book of any length, your brain will be getting tired, and it will become tough to see the results realistically. A personal confession here, more than once, I have published a book and then a month later came up with an idea that would have improved that book a great deal.

If you’re going to do rapid writing and publishing, you can’t sit on each book forever, but if you have enough books in your pipeline, you can let each one marinate while you work on the sequel. What you don’t want to do is go on making changes indefinitely without having someone else look at your work.

Does your manuscript need editing or proofreading?

There is lots to learn about editing and proofreading, and if you continue to self-publish, you will need to learn all about those steps. That learning begins with differentiating between editing and proofreading.

Try reading your book out loud.

No matter how many times I reread my manuscripts, I couldn’t catch all the errors. The human brain tries to spare us the need to reprocess large amounts of data and make many small decisions. That’s why our brains really love creating and repeating habits.

One habit my brain has gotten into, and I’m told other people’s brains work essentially the same way, it’s my eyes see what my brain wants to be on the page rather than what I actually typed. After rereading and revising the same paragraph multiple times, my brain no longer detects the errors. One solution to this problem is to shift to a different modality.

Reading my book out loud, specifically when I read it to a family member, caused all the errors and unwieldy sentences to pop out. So I took to reading a chapter each night before bedtime to whichever family member would listen, and I made corrections in red pen as I went along.

You need several more steps between a finished manuscript and the publishing process.

Not all editing is created equal.

There are many kinds of editing. I was naive enough at first to think that anyone who gave a manuscript a good, detailed read could be an effective editor. Over the last few years, I’ve been studying editing and listening to webinars and podcasts about the writing and editing processes. A good editor can help you in many ways.

Is the story working?

To produce a quality story, I needed to learn to take my eyes off the sentence-level problems and start looking at the overarching story. I’m still working on this part of my writing craft. Having someone other than the author read the book can help you spot the areas that still need work.

A story can be improved greatly when fresh eyes examine it. Developmental editors, book coaches, and many other categories of professional readers can tell you a lot about whether your story works, whether there are plot holes, and other big-picture issues. It’s also helpful to know whether your early readers will find the story interesting and whether it meets genre expectations.

Beta readers can be extremely helpful.

I had hoped my friends and family could give me helpful feedback that would improve my writing. Turned out that most of the people I know are more film and video enthusiasts than heavy readers. I think they also wanted to spare my feelings.

Every writer who has dreams of a career producing multiple books needs to find a group of readers who appreciate the stories you’re trying to tell. Recruiting those beta readers takes time and effort.

Those beta readers are most helpful when they read the genre you plan to write. Sending your new horror thriller to a list of readers who prefer cozy mysteries isn’t likely to get you the kind of feedback you need.

There are plenty of good writing teachers and coaches who can tell you all the ins and out’s of genre. I’m still at the stage of writing where I’m experimenting with several genres. I’ll get back to you in future posts with more on genre and the beta readers I will be looking for.

Successful editing requires multiple journeys through the book.

Several writing and editing trainings I have listened to suggest that editing requires multiple passes through the book. Having tried to fix everything all at once, this is making more and more sense to me.

One approach to this editing is to make your first pass through the book, looking only at the major issues like plot and character. Next would come reviews of major structural components such as the inciting incident, the midpoint, and the climax.

Next comes smaller sections. In the beginning, I thought of this as revising one chapter at a time. I’ve learned to start thinking in terms of scenes. Some of my chapters consist of only one scene, but other chapters may include several brief scenes.

Next comes looking at the flow of the paragraphs. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that a paragraph I thought I had written between one scene and the next never got from my brain into the manuscript.

Lastly should come the sentence-by-sentence review. The word choice may vary with the author’s style and the genre.

If you reach this point, and learning all this is no small task, you’re ready to tackle all the challenges of sending your story out into the world.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller.

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now! And more are on the way.

For these and my upcoming books, please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For more information about David Joel Miller’s work in mental health, please visit the website.

For my videos on mental health, substance abuse, and having a happy life, please see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

1 thought on “The steps between polishing and publishing.

  1. Agree with all your suggestions and I emphasize the value of reading aloud. I’m a writer now, but was an orator and speechwriter for two decades. Oddly, people “write” speeches, rather than create them in spoken voice/viva voce and aloud, recording them. Reading aloud written material spots all kinds of errors and wrinkles and areas calling for improvement. I also seek the fiercest feedback possible. Praise sin blurbs and reviews sells books.
    It doesn’t improve manuscripts. Great post – thank you, David.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s