This maybe should have been the first rule in literary magazine submissions because before you need to worry about developing a system (see my post of May 27), you need to have a great piece of writing ready to submit. Once you’ve got the content to be the very best you can make it, you need to polish your prose and iron out all the kinks so that you’re putting your best foot forward. Here are my steps:
1. Spell check. Obvious point maybe, but often overlooked. Not running spell check and having any kind of typo in your manuscript that Spell Check would have found is sloppy!
2. Read your manuscript out loud to yourself. Any spot that you stumble over while reading needs smoothing out. This also helps you find overused words.
3. Have someone else read your manuscript out loud to you. This person will actually read what you have written, rather than what you think you wrote, something that is almost impossible for the writer to do after working on a text for a long time. This is also great way to catch misused homophones, or words that are spelled correctly but that are not the right words, something Spell Check won’t do for you.
4. Do a word search for commonly misspelled words such as “you’re” vs. “your,” or “its” vs. “it’s” and look closely at each instance that comes up to make sure it is correct.
5. Do a word search for your word ticks. You should know what they are. For instance, I like to start sentences with “And” which in most cases is not appropriate. So I do a word search on “. And” to catch them.
6. Do a word search for filler words you like to use, such as “just” or “very.” In most instances, you should omit them.
7. Do a word search for “ly” as this will help you weed out adverbs. See if you can’t drop some of them or replace them with stronger verbs. This will make your prose smoother and more impactful.
8. Insert page numbers.
9. Make sure your name is on the manuscript unless the publication you’re submitting to wants to read blindly (this is often the case with contests).
Do you have any steps to add?