Top Tips for Tweaking Your Manuscript

If you want to get published, tweak your manuscript before submitting it to a publisher.

To illustrate the following points, we will create a hero named Jack. Jack is in Africa. He was born and raised in a small village, recently graduated from college and traveled to Nigeria to find work.

One of the most important things a writer can offer a reader is a look into a different way of life. Therefore, writers need to understand the importance of descriptions. Describe the culture, the scenery, the sunset, the foliage, the unique foods and the customs. Readers experience adventures through books and writers should strive to give them one.


The mistakes publishers most often see in submitted manuscripts are listed below:

Formatting Issues

The manuscript is not formatted correctly.


Missing quote marks, commas, periods, stilted conversation, too wordy, and too much cursing.


  • Speak the words outloud. Is this the way you would say it?
  • Delete extra words.
  • Check punctuation.
  • Limit the curse words.


Make sure to add quotation marks around the dialogue. Each character’s dialogue should be on a new line with commas, question marks and periods inside quotation marks.


“What is your name?” Jack asked the waitress.

“You are new here,” she observed.

“How do you know?”

“I have not seen you before.”


Pay attention to viewpoint. Don’t use first person in some places and third person in others. Third person is the most popular for novel writing.

Example of first person point of view:
I walk into my hotel room and shut the door. I feel like a king because this space belongs to me.

Third person point of view:
Jack walked into his hotel room and shut the door. He felt like a king because this was his private space.

When writing as first person you are walking along with the character and telling the story as he lives it. You can only tell the story from the character’s point of view.

Example: I did this, or I did that, or I felt like… or I went to…

Writing in third person viewpoint offers the writer the opportunity to write as though they know all and see all. You could write about Jack and others as well. In third person point of view, you know and see everything. You write in the past tense as though these things already took place.

Example: He did that, or He felt like, or He went to.


Once you finish your manuscript do an edit to add descriptions.


The reader needs to smell the aroma that Jack smells as he sits in a café speaking to the waitress. Is cigarette smoke polluting the air? Does he smell coffee? If it is morning, is bacon frying? Are cinnamon rolls baking?

You don’t have to write about smells everywhere Jack goes, but in a diner it would set the scene. Bad smells are just as important. For instance, is Jack in a cheap hotel? If so, can he smell sweat, foot odor or bad breath from those who don’t pay attention to hygiene?


How about the sounds that surround Jack? Is it noisy in the diner? Is anyone arguing? Are children running unattended? Is music playing? Is an air conditioning unit whirling in the background? Can Jack hear traffic on the street outside the diner?


Does Jack see customers standing near the cash register waiting to pay their bill? Or waiters taking orders and delivering them? Or lovers holding hands in a nearby booth? Or an old man at the end of the counter wearing an interesting cap? Is Jack’s waitress pretty? Is she wearing a uniform?


Is there air-conditioning in the room? Can he feel the air touch his face? As the waitress serves him a cup of tea does her hand touch his?


The reader also wants to know what Jack thinks about. What goes through his mind when he sees those cursed with extreme poverty? Does he feel that it is their fault? Does he think they should they try harder to overcome the obstacles in their lives? How does he think they can overcome their circumstance? Does he have any idea how the situation could be resolved? Does he blame his government?

How does Jack feel after eating a good meal? What does he think about the waitress?

A Draft

When you write a novel the first writing is always a draft. Writers miss things and make mistakes. The second edit affords writers the opportunity to fill in gaps or to add descriptions. Your manuscript is not complete without two complete edits.

Janet Sue Terry was born and raised in London, Kentucky. The oldest of eight children, she always had a deep appreciation for education and the arts.