On Finishing a Manuscript
I did it! I finished a new manuscript!
*flop down on floor*
Writing is hard. Sometimes writing is easy. But most of the time, it is hard and lonely and daunting to put words on a page. Weaving a story from nothing but threads spun in your mind is brave and scary and exhilarating… and terrifying. Because the fear of failure is with you every step of the way.
Failure to finish. Failure to tell a compelling story. Failure to capture the hearts and minds (or the attention) of readers.
I’ll be honest—this book took me a very long time to finish. I started this manuscript two years ago and set it aside to work on revisions for a different book (translation: completely rewrote. Twice.). But I never let the idea go. I knew it was the next book I was going to write. I just had to let the idea simmer.
I’m a Planner (aka Plotter), meaning I like to have the story mapped out before I start writing a manuscript (the other type of writer being a Pantser, meaning you write by the seat of your pants). My first manuscript was pretty much completely pantsed, and I learned over the many, many revisions that followed that Pantsing was not an economic way for me to write. It works for many writers, but for me… I need to map out my story’s journey, to keep myself on track. So for this new shiny MS, I made an outline.
The first outline wasn’t quite right. I knew big changes needed to be made, but I wasn’t sure what those were yet. Over time (and in between revisions of my other MS) I reshaped the outline and strengthened my characters’ journeys. In this story the characters follow a treasure hunt with solvable puzzles, and the clues and puzzles needed to be constructed before I put pen to paper (because each puzzle dictated a certain location/environment/time of day). By the time I finished revisions and started querying my other book (SEEKER), the outline for my WIP had been polished and carefully detailed. Finally the story felt true, compelling, and it was exactly the journey I wanted to send my MCs on.
I had my map, now I needed to follow it.
Writing with an outline has made a *world* of difference. I never panicked, never stared at a blank page wondering what my characters needed to do next. I had a clear map to follow, with plenty of wiggle room in case the story needed to shift, or in case a better idea sprung up as I was writing.
It was still a struggle to finish (my perfectionist brain wouldn’t leave a sentence alone until it read *just right*... ugh), but it is done! And now I get to revise! But this time revisions don’t seem as daunting. The attention I gave my outline and the time I took to build the story brick by brick has given me confidence that the story is on the right track.
Do you want to know the secret to finishing a story? The way to write—and finish—a book is to shape it one word at a time. It isn’t easy (I don’t know if *anyone* has ever said writing is the simplest thing to do), but if you keep persisting, your story will slowly shift and take shape.
If you want to be a writer, be brave and pick up that pen. Words matter. Your stories matter.
And I can’t wait to read them.