Blog Highlights: 7 Tips for Your Final Manuscript Read-Through

For the grand opening of this blog, I’m spotlighting some of my favorite blog posts and moments from over the years throughout the month of June.


Week One: Writing Tips and Advice



Yesterday’s post was all about conducting an editing and polishing round, which includes giving the manuscript a final read-through. Here’s a post that goes more in-depth on what I’m looking out for during that reading.



First posted on March 12, 2012

See the original post at:


I started in on my final pass of Book 2: SCARLET yesterday and am feeling really great about it. I usually enjoy this stage of writing, because it’s the first time that I can sit back and (hopefully) enjoy the book as if I were a reader experiencing it for the first time.

But I don’t see the final pass as an opportunity to get lazy. Although there will still be time to make changes during copyedits and page proofs, I want to keep any edits to a minimum during those stages, which means this is my last chance to make larger changes. It’s important for me to send the book into the editing process knowing that I’ve made the best product I’m capable of.

Here is how I approach the final, momentous read-through of a manuscript:

1. Get comfortable.
As I’m trying to approach the book like a reader would, I want to be comfortable. I may stake out a spot on the couch or even in bed instead of at my desk. I may bring along some coffee and cookies and light a candle—whatever makes it a more enjoyable experience. For me, the idea is to separate this round from all the other revision rounds that have come before.

Although I typically still read on my laptop for ease of making quick changes, a lot of writers will choose to print out the pages at this stage. Some even change the typography to more reflect an actual book. Experiment until you find what works best for you.

2. Make Known Changes First
Regardless of how many times I’ve been over a draft, inevitably there are always some last-minute changes that have come to my attention since the last round. They’re usually very minor—a clarifying sentence here or a quick deletion there. I begin by hunting down those spots and making the changes so they won’t interrupt the reading later, and so I’ll be able to get a feel for those last-minute changes in the context of the whole book.

3. Read as Quickly as Possible
If it’s possible to carve out a whole day and get through the manuscript in one sitting—perfect! If not, then at least strive to do it as quickly as possible. The entire read-through shouldn’t span more than a few days, otherwise you’ll start to lose sight of the big picture. It’s also a lot easier to spot inconsistencies when you’re reading it over a short time period.

4. Pay Special Attention to Timeline Issues
This is usually the stage in which I update my Series Bible Timeline, which includes the dates and times of every happening in the books. I’ll be checking that the dates match with what happened in CINDER, and that things like moon phases and seasons are consistent.

5. Cut Out the Fat
Although I’ve been on pretty strict editing mode for a few passes now, this is the round when I keep a fierce eye open for unnecessary adverbs, phrases, descriptions, dialogue tags, and the like. Perhaps ironically, these things tend to jump out at me more when I’m in relaxed-reader-mode than editor-mode, so it works for me. (That said, some writers prefer to do a cutting-the-fat pass that’s separate from their final read-through. Again, find what works for you.)

6. Listen to Your Instincts
If there’s something nagging at you—a weird turn of phrase or a chapter that just doesn’t feel right—pause and take the time to figure out why. I’ve found that some things in a manuscript will nag at me for many drafts, but are continually overlooked in the face of other, bigger story problems. This is the point at which those things become more obvious, so pay attention when your instincts tell you that something isn’t working. It could be a line of dialogue that doesn’t fit the character or a chapter that drags on for too long. Whatever it is, take the time to tweak and fiddle until the nagging goes away. You may have to come back and re-read that chapter again with a fresh eye once you’ve finished.

7. Have a Reward Planned
I like to begin my final read-through by putting my celebratory bubbly in the fridge so it will be chilled and ready when I’m done. Congratulations—you’re almost there!

What other tips do you have for completing the final manuscript read-through?