What to do after you finish your manuscript.

I finished my second manuscript last night. I’ve still got to incorporate a couple of things: nuances I missed in the mad rush for the finish. But once that’s done, the drafting stage of the unnamed book I’ve been calling Book Two (yes, I’m a creative genius) will be complete.

You may be thinking—especially seeing I’m an editor by trade—that I’d be jumping straight into editing it. And I’m keen, believe me. I have all the crazy momentum of the last few weeks of writing, the urge to be doing, boiling away in my brain. But that would be a really, really bad idea. So if you’re in the same boat as me, this is my advice to you (imagine me shouting this through a megaphone in a hostage situation):

Put the manuscript down. Back AWAY from the manuscript!

When you first finish writing anything—novel, short story, article, shopping list—you are too close to see it objectively. There are a few tricks to let you review it more impartially. Some people suggest changing the font so you’re looking at it differently to how you saw it during drafting—this works for me when I preview the final version of a blog post, so it ought to work for a novel too. (It probably won’t work for a shopping list, unless you draft those electronically.)

I personally like to print my manuscript and edit in hard copy. Transcribing edits back into the soft copy is a bitch, but it’s worth it.

However, the best thing you can give yourself is time.

When I finished Book One (now called ISLA’S INHERITANCE), I made myself wait a full month before I opened it again. The only thing I let myself do was a spellcheck and some formatting. That’s it. But I didn’t waste that intervening period.

I read an agent’s blog. There are quite a few out there, but the one I chose was Miss Snark. The blog has been dark since 2007, but the archives are available and they are pure gold, my friend. They stopped me from making rookie mistakes when I eventually started querying agents. No, my mistakes (and I have made them) have been unique and individual ones!

This time, I’m thinking about pulling out Stephen King’s On Writing, which is one of the best books on the subject out there. I’ll reread it, see what lazy habits I developed in the drafting stage so I’m ready to go when I start editing. Also, while Book Two was a sequel to ISLA’S INHERITANCE—and I do have the beginnings of Book Three bubbling away in my subconscious (I’d always planned a trilogy)—I’ve also got an idea for a completely different book, which requires world-building and research. So I’ll work on that too.

As you can see, I won’t be wasting all that energy and forward momentum. I’ll just be using it in different ways.

6 Comments on “What to do after you finish your manuscript.”

  1. I had to walk away from my NaNo novel after it was drafted, but now it’s printed and in a binder, ready for me to red pen the heck out of it. I love the King book you referenced. Sometimes I reread the William Zinser book On Writing Well. Actually anything that reminds me of what I should be aiming for is useful.

  2. fortyoneteen says:

    Thanks for this post, I was wondering about the whole hard copy edit thing. I think I’d like to feel the weight of the almost finished product after it being an invisible commodity for so long. Since I began my manuscript I feel like my style has changed, more confidence I think. Then when I read chapter one written so many months ago…. yuck! Looks like it’s rewrite time.

  3. […] mentioned here that I like to let a completed manuscript sit for a month before I do my first edit on it. I have […]

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