Written by A Guest Author May 12th, 2016

5 Free & Cheap Editing Options for Your Manuscript

Written Anne Hogue-Boucher

Being a writer sure is easy! It’s just a matter of working up a first draft and publishing it as-is without any rewrites or editing, right?


If you’re a writer who self-publishes, or keeps getting rejected from publishing houses because your manuscript still needs work, then you understand the importance of having a good editor look at your work. But what if you’re just starting out and don’t have the money to cover your rent, let alone paying someone an enormous amount of money to help you with your manuscript?

The truth is, if you’re scrounging for change in your couch to make ends meet, you’re going to scoff every time you hear someone say you have to cough up the money to get your work to a level that’s worthy of publishing.

You likely don’t want to put your work out there in a first draft or unpolished work, because that’s a surefire way to make sure no one ever reads it.

Luckily, there’s a way to get your work polished without spending tons of money. It’s a lot of work and will take up a lot of your time, but if you really want to save the green and get your best work out for public consumption, it’s worth it.

There are three steps to take to get your work somewhere in the ballpark of ready for publishing.

Step One: Use Hemingway App. This app is a great copy editing tool that will keep your writing from typical writer errors. It helps identify long sentences, passive voice, overly complex words, and adverb reduction. It will tighten up your writing.

Step Two: Use ProWritingAid. This app will find everything that Hemingway App didn’t. It will find clichés, sticky sentences, and overused words.

Step Three: Get two or three excellent beta readers. It helps if they have English degrees or are voracious readers. Bonus points if they like you enough to be honest (set your ego aside on this and take constructive critique as a compliment). Because beta readers aren’t editors, you’ll have to ask them the following questions to get some good developmental edits and suggestions from them:

  • Is there anything in the work that was unclear?
  • Would the work be more interesting or keep your attention if any of the narrative came in a different order? If yes, which?
  • Was it clear to the reader who was speaking and when? If there are any spots that are not clear, highlight them.
  • How well did the work flow? Should anything be moved around to make it flow more smoothly?
  • Did the headings make sense and could or should any be removed?
  • Were there any inconsistencies in the work? Plot holes?
  • Were any of the characters doing things that didn’t seem to fit with their character? Was their growth clear?

Make your beta readers be honest, and build up your calluses so that you can make your work the best it can be.

How do you find beta readers? If recruiting friends or writing group members is not an option there are plenty of ways to find one online including this Good Reads group and this Tumblr group.

Now, these three steps aren’t perfect. You will have to do a lot of work on your own, but it will save you a lot of money.

If you find you don’t have the time to do all this work, there are two services that you may wish to consider. Yes, it’s going to cost money, but will save you time so you can focus on rewrites.

The first, and most cost-efficient, is BubbleCow. They will take your full manuscript and turn it back to you in 28 days with a report and line-by-line editing for your work. You pay $15 per 1000 words. For a novel of around 65,000 words, you’ll pay around $975. It will include all conferences, emails, structural editing, the editor’s report, proofreading, and a professional book cover of your choice courtesy of GoOnWrite.

The other, and more expensive, is Novel Gazing. They offer full editing at five cents per word, so a 65,000-word novel will cost you a lot more than BubbleCow’s services-around $3,250. However, they offer you a sample editing of the first five pages of your novel for free, just so you can check them out. The free sample is the reason I mention them, as it may help you get started on a do-it-yourself venture. For the frugal writer, BubbleCow is likely the better choice.

If you’re struggling to make ends meet and can’t afford an editor, don’t sweat it. With a little creativity, work, and time, you can polish up your work that’s ready to submit for publishing.


Anne Hogue-Boucher is the author of Exit 1042, and The Journalist, which is featured in the anthology Zombie Bites. She is also a freelance editor, and has the best personal editor at home of all time, in the form of a spouse.




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