I finished a manuscript for my third book.
Excited. I’m satisfied with the work (and panicking, because it’s off to the editor, and I can’t help that little niggle of what-if-it-sucks), and so I thought I’d take a few minutes to talk about finishing. Here are six things you can’t learn without finishing your manuscripts. There are more, I’m sure, but these are the ones I can come up with.
If you’ve never written an ending, you can’t learn how to write a middle. How do you keep pushing? Keep building tension? How do you write a climax? You’ll never know until you write an ending. You can’t go back and study the shape of your work without having a completed piece.
You can decide on theme beforehand, I suppose, but I feel as if what the story is about isn’t always clear until you write it, and if it’s consciously there in the first draft, a lot of times it can feel heavy-handed. You’re writing a story, not a sermon.
If you can’t keep control of your mind (and your writing time) long enough to finish a project, you won’t be a professional writer. End of story, and pardon the punnage.
You can rewrite those first six paragraphs for the rest of your life, sure, but that isn’t revision. I’m talking about taking first draft to novel here. This flexes absolutely every writing muscle you’ve got. What to cut? What to keep? What to change? Learning this is absolutely vital. Shaping your raw material into a book is hard work, but you’ll never get to try your hand until you have a completed draft to work with.
5. What It’s Like to Work with an Editor.
This is a really interesting and wonderful experience, which I highly recommend. I’ve heard some horror stories, don’t get me wrong, but working with my editor to produce a highly-polished and publishable product is immensely rewarding. I’ve learned a lot about writing from him, and he always shows me how much more I have to learn—which is both terrifying and wildly exciting. Exciterrifying?
I think this goes without saying. It’s an amazing and indescribable feeling. The only other times I’ve felt greater satisfaction were when I held each of my kids for the first time. It is incredible, but if you want to feel it, you’ve got to finish.
So what are you waiting for? Go! Finish your draft.