Posted by: Kathleen Mix | October 22, 2013

Finished Manuscripts

When is a manuscript finished?
Some writers dash off a draft and call their story done. I know authors who have spent ten years perfecting a manuscript’s every word and mark of punctuation.
My average time from beginning a first draft to completion is nine months, but I had one manuscript that I tinkered with off and on for several years before I was satisfied with the structure of the story and my characters’ development.
No manuscript should be considered finished until it has been reviewed by a beta reader or critique partner. Before submitting or self-publishing, the text should be read by at least one set of eyes other than the author’s. Most manuscripts can benefit from a second draft, some need a third or a fourth.
Critiques are useful, but the critique process should stop before a story loses its originality or freshness because it’s been revised too many times. And an author must be careful not to let the suggestions of others smother their voice. Submitting the same story to a critique group over and over has diminishing returns: the readers lose objectivity with each subsequent pass.
A manuscript should be considered finished any time revision has become an excuse not to submit to an agent or editor. My personal philosophy is: Get it off your desk before you begin to hate it.
Your work doesn’t have to be perfect. Taking ten years to finish a manuscript is probably too long unless you’re writing War and Peace. Dashing something off in one month is probably too quick unless you’re as prolific and skilled as Nora Roberts. You need a manuscript that’s not too hot, not too cold – sort of the ‘just right’ Goldilock’s sought in the bears’ porridge.
Every story is unique and every writer has their own pace and method. The true answer to when a manuscript is finished has to be: when the author feels satisfied with what he or she has created and knows deep inside that they’ve done their best to translate into print the story that was inside their head.
Today, I’m celebrating that milestone. I have decreed my current manuscript done.

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Responses

  1. Great post. I would guess that writers all have different reasons for taking so long on their work. I am almost 5 years in and realistically have another before it is ready.

    My excuses range from learning the craft, which it true. I started at zero creative words written. It takes a long time to learn how to write. I didn’t know it would take this long. Additionally, I have a full time job, a wife, kids, and a life built around them. Just as I feel that I am getting there, I will be taking another two month hiatus because of work.

    I am not deterred and I will crank out number two much faster. Maybe, ha ha.

    Like

    • Finishing your first manuscript is difficult, but if you hang in there, I’m sure you’ll succeed. Best of luck.
      Thanks for the congratulations.

      Like

  2. By the way, I didn’t say one last thing.

    Congratulations on finishing your work!

    Like

  3. […] Finished Manuscripts […]

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