The End

It’s hard to know when your manuscript is finished. Let’s face it, lots of us are new at this and we don’t know what a publication-ready manuscript looks like. Publishers sometimes offer advice: make your copy as clean and your story as tight as possible is the number one tip. But what does clean and tight really look (and feel) like? This is how the Book Length Project Group members know when their manuscript is “done”:

So how do we get to that magical – finished – place? Here are some ideas:

Cleaning and tightening

  1. Know yourself
    • Do you tend to rush through a manuscript or are you a perfectionist who keeps polishing long after you know it’s shiny? Identify your writing personality and self-correct by taking a more structured approach to editing or setting yourself a deadline.
  2. Think about your reader
    • Your family and friends are going to be more forgiving of grammatical mistakes in your self-published novel than people who bought your professionally-published memoir in a bookshop. (I know, my mum thinks everything I write is brilliant.) Adjust your polish levels accordingly.
  3. Read it like its brand new
    • I can get overly familiar with my manuscripts and starting getting a bit, well, snippy with them. A bit of distance is sometimes needed to salvage the relationship. Try:
      • The time-honoured method of putting your manuscript in the bottom drawer for a week, a month, a decade.
      • The read aloud function in your word processing app to listen to your work. (I’ve just discovered this – huge fan.)
      • Writing something else for a while.
      • Buying a puppy. (Don’t buy a puppy.)
      • Or even just changing the font.
  4. Beta readers
    • Beta readers are angels who read your tender manuscript and provide feedback before it goes out into the world. The Western Australian writer Marlish Glorie has this to say about using beta readers
      • send your work to more than one beta reader at a time
      • be specific about where you want feedback (so they don’t get bogged down on typos)
      • wait for the lightbulb moment when you read their comments.
  5. Interview yourself
    • Readers will ask you questions about your book. Thinking about the answers now will not only soothe your post-publication terrors about being interviewed, but will help you tighten your story. Ask yourself:
      • Where did you come up with the idea for this book?
      • What is the main idea you want a reader to take away?
      • What was so important about the setting?
      • What is so special about your main character?
      • Why did the story end the way it did?

To publish or not to publish?

The BLPG members have different takes on the answer. Some say yes, some say no, some say it depends. They all say that finishing a book length manuscript is a huge achievement. You will know it is ready if you feel good about it, you have polished it until your arms are sore, and you want to share it with the world. Make sure you pause to saviour the moment and celebrate your hard work.

The Book Length Project Group meets on the third Sunday of every month at Mattie Furphy House in Swanbourne. All FAWWA members and friends are welcome. If you would like to join us, please go to The Fellowship of Australian Writers WA ( for more information.

Please note that the Book Length Project Group will meet on 26 June and not the 19th as some of us will be attending the FAWWA Sunday Sessions:

Published by karenwhittleherbert


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