Wednesday, March 12, 2014

7 Final Steps Before You Turn In Your Book

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books for teens in lots of weird genres like, fantasy (Blood of Kings trilogy), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website.

Over the past month, I've finished five books. (That sounds more impressive than it is.) I finished the rewrite of Rebels (The Safe Lands, book 3), I finished and published Ambushed: Mini-Mission 2.5 (available Friday), and I wrote and rewrote three books in the RoboTales series for readers in grades 3-7 (Tinker, Mardok and the Seven Exiles, and The Tiny Cyborg). So I found myself repeating my final steps again and again. And again. And I thought it might be interesting and helpful to share my final steps with you.

1. Read it one more time.
No matter how many times I've rewritten or read the book, I always read it again. And I usually put it on my Nook or Kindle and read it that way. If I have time, I'll read it out loud to my kids. You catch so many more mistakes reading the book aloud to an audience than you catch reading it silently to yourself.

2. Seek out weasel words.
If you've never heard of weasel words, these are simply words that take up space and that don't help you tell a good story. Also, you can sometimes delete them without even having to replace them. (For example, those highlighted words in the previous two sentences.)

Stephanie and I posted our list of weasel words for you to download and print. Click here to see it.

Included on my list are words that I often mis-type, but my mis-typing creates a real word, so spell check doesn't pick it up. Words like: that (I type "than"), think (I type "thing"), and through (I type "though").

For all of these words, I will, tediously, type each one into the "Find and Replace" function in MS Word to make sure I have them all correct.

3. Seek out contractions.
I naturally type out full words when I write dialogue. Not always. (I've been training myself.) But since I write fast first drafts, I don't always pay attention. So I like to "Find and Replace" certain whole words with contractions like: "it is" to "it's," "I am" to "I'm," "do not" to "don't," "that is" to "that's," etc. 

4. Shorten chapters.
One of my pet peeves is a chapter that ends with only a few lines on a page. Drives me nuts. Now, the truth is, that is not how it will look in the final book. My Word file will be reformatted and, hopefully, the layout person will not allow that to happen. But I've always tried to get rid of it on my end too, for a few reasons. 1. Like I said, it just annoys me. 2. It lowers my page count and I write long, so it makes my book look a little shorter. I can often cut 20 pages by shortening chapters! 3. It lowers my word count. I write long, so it makes my book look shorter. *grin*

To do this, I scroll through each chapter looking for paragraphs with short last lines. See the highlighted places below? I take paragraphs like these and reword and tighten them until those one-three -word lines go away, making the paragraphs one line shorter. 

5. Chapter headings check.
When I rewrite, sometimes things get rearranged or changed. So I always to a "Find" for the word "chapter." This allows me to click through and make sure all my chapter headings are correctly formatted and have the right number.

6. Formatting check.
I use the "Find and Replace" function in MS Word to delete tabs, double enters, multiple spaces, backwards quotes and apostrophes, highlighting, bold or underlining, line breaks, page breaks. I check my hyphens and dashes, and I check my ellipses. I also make sure any Track Changes are gone.

7. Spell check!
And the very last thing I do is a spell check. It's easy to forget this, especially with Word's nifty red underlining. But you MUST NOT FORGET THIS! Even if you write fantasy and it's tedious because 90 percent of the words spell check thinks are wrong are names or places you made up. It will go faster if you click "Add to dictionary" or "ignore all" on those words. But the spell check will always find something. It's worth it to take the time to do it.

Any questions? What are your final steps before you submit a book? Is there something I've missed? Share in the comments.


  1. This is a really helpful post! Thank you Jill. Chapters that take up just a few lines on a new page bug me too!
    ~Sarah Faulkner

  2. These will defiantly go on my Editing checklist! Thanks.

  3. I would add "in order" (as in, "in order to") to the Weasel List. This phrase is NEVER necessary.

  4. Awkward moment when you spend two whole minutes trying to figure out why your computer is highlighting things... XD Great post, though!! As always. ;)

    1. Ha ha. Oh dear. I've done that before. Then been like, oh. Right. :-)

  5. Ooh. Good timing. I've finally stopped procrastinating and started editing again.

    1. Ahh, procrastinating. One of my favorite pastimes. ;-)

  6. I do the reread again and again. I should do more with the Find and Replace tool. I suck at words like than/then...definitely need to check that I've got them all right! This is such a great post. :)

    1. Thanks, Cait! Glad you found it helpful. :-)

  7. Great post!
    I'm scared to read my chapters so far, I think I might just have created FRANKENSTEIN!

    But seriously, I don't know if I will be pleased with what I've written... Oh well, you live and learn. :P

  8. This is an awesome list!!