Sunday, November 17, 2013

Writing to Done

A talented thriller author, Jennifer Hillier, recently posted on her Facebook page about when she knows she's done with a book and ready to give it to her editor. For Jennifer it was as follows:  

"When you get to that point in edits where you're no longer sure if anything makes sense and you've totally lost all perspective, then it's time to send the manuscript back to your editor. Because you're done.  Yay!"

For new authors one of the greatest challenges is learning to recognize when their manuscript is done. By done I'm talking about the point where the novel is polished enough to have a chance of catching and keeping the eye of a literary agent, or if the author chooses to self publish the point where it has the chance of selling thousands of copies to readers who aren't your friends and family.

As writers we all get to the point where we finished. With my current novel I've been there at least four times during the past year. It's the destination where your beta readers, friends, writing group associates, and your soul all tell you you're done. But is this really the point at which your novel has matured to the point where it's completed? Probably not. 

What's a new writer to do at this point in the creative process? 

You can pay an editorial service to critique your novel. One such service charges .008 per word for a manuscript evaluation.  They'll take it a step further and annotate your manuscript for .012 a word. To put this into perspective if you have a 100,000 word novel the first service will cost you $800 dollars and the second $1200. I'd suggest keeping your money to hire a freelance editor later on in your writing process.

If you have a friend or associate who works in publishing or editing you can beg, bribe, or convince them to read your manuscript and give you the naked truth about how good or bad your story is. At this point you don't want, or need someone to be nice to you, and tell you what they think you want to hear about your work. 

Stephen King says in his book "On Writing" to let it rest. He suggests putting it in your desk drawer and letting it sit undisturbed for a minimum of six weeks. Mr King suggests doing this after your first draft. I agree with his logic, but I'd like to take it one step further. Give your manuscript a six week rest at the point where you think your done.

During this time three things will happen. 

Number one is distance - you will distance yourself from your writing, your characters, and your familiarity with the story. This is a good thing. During the six weeks begin your next novel. If it's a sequel get it started while the protagonist is fresh in your mind. If you don't feel like diving into a whole new novel then write something entirely different such as a short story, blog posts, etc.  If you have the budget and time for it take a trip. If you don't have the budget go hiking or camping. I spent many weekends camping during my college days back in the 1980's. It's a great way to rest and rejuvenate one's soul for a few dollars of gas money.

Number two is self doubt - all writers at some point in the process face this. I thing it is a good thing because it is ego defeating. As writers we need to check our ego at the door occasionally. Otherwise it gets in the way and stifles our creativity and revision process. 

Number three is perspective - when you pull your novel out of the drawer in six weeks you will look at it with fresh perspective. Print it out on paper and with a pen and notebook sit down, and read as much of it as you can in one sitting. Leave the manuscript pristine and take your notes in the notebook.

PS: If you'd like to read more about Jennifer Hillier I interviewed her here on The Writers Cabin in the Author Interviews Section or you can read about her and her thriller novels here:  Jennifer Hillier Website

Good luck to all of you fellow writers out there.  Let's hope you write the next Bestseller.

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