Bridge to Story

Standard Editing Questions

You may send your work off to be edited by someone who offers that service, like I do. Or you may want to give yourself a chance at a round of editing. In either case you’ll want to look at well formatted manuscript pages.

First – here are some basics about formatting a manuscript page.

If you are not going to be editing your own work:

Here are some guidelines for formatting your pages before you send them off to someone else to go over.

  • Align text to the left, not centered or justified on the page.
  • Always number the pages you are sending to be edited. If you grab a hunk of text from the whole manuscript -and send it- number those pages also, even when it’s just an excerpt.
  • Paragraphs (if using MS Word):
    • Use the Format menu option for Paragraphs. 
    • Format toolbar > Paragraph option > Indents & Spacing tab:
      • General/Alignment = Left.  
      • Indentation/Special = First line. 
      • Spacing/Line spacing = Double

If, after a thorough edit, you want to submit work to Publishers or Agents:

First, find out what they are looking for formatting-wise. Read their web sites, or listings for Calls for Submission. They should state their needs very clearly.

If no formatting needs are listed, use these standard page formatting items.

  • 1 inch margins on all sides of the page
  • If necessary adjust Margins to make 25 lines per page
  • 12 pt. font in Times New Roman
  • Double spacing in body of page.

Now, let’s take a look at the example and exercise for  edit questions to consider if the work is being done by you.

Example Toggle


Here’s a list of questions one novice came up with. For her, craft issues in writing better dialogue meant more than those of structure or plot holes. So her list looked like this:

  • Do I mix up narration into the dialogue so that not every line begins with quote marks?
  • Have I edited most of the un-needed attributes out?
  • Are my lines using subtext, in what folks say to each other, to convey motivation? 

Think of what area of fiction you want to sharpen in your own work. Characters, Dialogue, Narration, Settings. Go back though the last 44 lessons and see what questions you might ask about your work. Your list of Standard Questions should be tailored to your issues.

Now, let's set up a checklist of things to edit.

Lesson Exercise 1 Toggle

Lesson Exercise 1:

Editing your own work? Here are some QUESTIONS to ask yourself when you already have the scene on paper.

1. The purpose of this opener is what?

    State this on paper or on a 4 x 6 card. Have you met that purpose?

    If not [yet] add a note to the card that you need to do this. Then move on to the first scene you’ve got.

2. ( in the early scenes) Who are you introducing? Have you done this in subtle and visual ways?

    If not [yet] add a note to the card ( you made for this scene) that you need to do this.

3. Does this scene move us into the next scene? If yes, on the card write: “TRANSISITON ___” and put a check next to it.

    If no, not yet, re-write the transition (end of scene) so that it does move us onward.

You’ll be doing this ‘standard questioning’ for every scene from here onward.

Between the questions you come up with from  past lessons, and these standard questions here, you can create your very own editing kit.

Keep this list or set of cards and try your best not to work sequentially. Free you mind by allowing yourself to jump around to these fixes and blank spots and do the ones that come easy first.