While this is not strictly falling on either side of the fence, I thought that this was a good place to drop it in. So whether you're subbing to an anthology, self publishing or touting a novel, when you're ready to say, "It's finished," where should your work be?
Yeah, I know it sounds obvious, but I have read many pieces of 'finished' work that haven't been spell checked. Even in a novel it is not a long process. So why not do it? Yes, you have to check each and every thing that it throws at you - hey, even spell check tries to change names into adjectives occasionally - but it's worth it.
Nobody expects you to know everything. Don't try to know everything. But know the basics. You should know where a semi-colon, period, comma, or colon go.
To my mind, it is extremely important to know how to create punctuated dialogue. Know when to capitalize and when not. Sure, mistakes can, are, and always will be made, but to often...
Continuity of Production
Believe it or not, I have seen completed work - read 'already self-published' - that changes font. Not randomly, not on purpose, but accidentally in the center of a work. It went from a serif to a sans-serif. Fairly noticeable I would say.
Make sure your chaptering is labelled in a continuous manner. If you roman numeral, roman numeral. If you have headings, heading. Don't drop one. Indent the same amount the whole way. Make it uniform.
Continuity of Fact
We all change things when we write. We do. But make sure that if you have changed something - say, someones name - do a find on the document, especially if it is a novel, and make sure you got them all. I did it in the Wicked East Press Shootout. You can imagine the response I got.
Okay, this is one that I struggle with, but make sure that perspective doesn't change illogically. Check back on the scenes where you do shift from one character to another - does it work? Is it jarring? Did you mean to do it?
I do it. I think we all do it from time to time. Repetition of the same word... well... repeatedly. When writing it is easy to get 'stuck' on a word. Your beta readers should find that one for you. It's hard to spot it yourself. I pulled a word out of one piece of work that was there over two hundred times and the first person who read it threw it straight back at me.
And on that note...
If you are going to self publish, or you want to get noticed, get as many people as you can to read something before you say it's finished. And listen to their opinions. Some will tell you about things that don't make sense to them. They're readers. They're probably right. Some will point out that your chronology fails, your facts are wrong, you made a mistake. Use that information.
'Til next time...