Five final steps before sending off a draft

Guest blog by Gillian McAllister

When writing a novel we become blind to its flaws. An author friend and I like to joke that we would and also really wouldn’t like to erase our memories and read our work afresh.
In the absence of memory wiping, here are five ways I ensure there are as few typos as possible at the point when I press ‘send’.


1. A line-by-line edit


This usually takes me about three to four weeks. It’s an easy enough time; I’m doing nothing structural, and am just reading my draft. I read about 3,000 – 4,000 words per day, every day, and it takes me about an hour, maybe making up some time at the weekends. It’s frustrating to add three weeks onto the end of a draft when you feel ready to send, but this is the most necessary step.


2. A read through


Then, I do a quicker read through, usually on my kindle but sometimes printed. I try and read 20% of my novel per day, usually in bed at night (though it sometimes leads to late-evening crises of confidence…). I always always always find at least ONE HUNDRED typos at this stage, so do not miss it out!


3. A spell check


It is extremely tedious, I know, to be told repeatedly by Microsoft Word that your novel is full of ‘fragments’ or that ‘petrichor’ is not a word, however, the plus points to running a spell check outweigh the bad. I always find something, usually a forgotten space after a speech mark, a double comma or a non-capitalised ‘i’. It’s so worth doing even if it involves clicking ‘ignore all’ for half an hour.


4. CTRL + F is your friend


I always run some strategic searches. If I have deleted a character, I search for their name. If I have changed a character’s name, I search for their old one. I also search for the worsts ‘just’ and ‘seem’ because they tend to water down meanings (and I overuse them in drafts…), ‘ly’ (to catch adverbs) and any other words or phrases I’ve made a note to search for that I felt I was over-using as I drafted.


5.  Print preview


The final step is to preview the entire document and scan it. I look for any gaps (page breaks do sometimes produce entire blank pages), any bits of text that aren’t justified, etc. I also press CTRL + A and check that the font is the same (if the font bar goes blank, this means you have a different font somewhere in your manuscript).

GILLIAN McALLISTER‘s debut novel, Everything But The Truth  (Penguin Spring 2017) follows newly-pregnant Rachel, who slowly begins to realise that her boyfriend Jack is hiding a huge secret about his past. 

Gillian graduated with an English degree in 2006 and is now a lawyer with a large law firm. Her blog has been featured in various publications including Company magazine and Gillian is represented by literary agent Clare Wallace at Darley Anderson. Gillian tweets @GillianMAuthor and blogs at

More posts from Gillian:

Five editing hacks

Five tips when facing a structural edit

Five things you might forget to include in your query letter

Five ways to find time to write

Five ways to add tension to your novel

Five quick ways to create vivid characters

Five things I didn’t understand before I got my publishing deal

Five signs your book is ready to go out into the world  

Five ways to stay sane while out on submission

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