If you’re a writer who has typed “The End” on a manuscript, you know it’s just the beginning.
There’s still the second draft. Endless edits. Incorporating beta feedback. Re-writing whole sections. Adding or dropping characters. At least five (or more) other drafts—and that’s before you look for agents, tackle the dreaded synopsis, or prepare to self-publish.
Working your way through all those processes will cost you hours, and at certain points, your sanity. You’ll feel as if you’ve been doing it so long you can’t even remember a time when you weren’t writing your WIP.
When you reach that point, it’s easy to miss that you have actually finished your MS. So here are the signs you’re ready to move onto a new manuscript, in case you didn’t already know…
You’re Characters Have Stopped Talking To You
And not in the way they’re no longer following your planned outline and doing what they want. They are done and won’t wake you at three am with bits of dialogue and character arc wish lists.
You Have Ideas For Other Stories
Some writers can work on many stories at once, switching from MS to MS. My writer-brain only gives me ideas for what I’m working on. Once fresh ideas and plot lines come thick and fast for a different book, I know my current WIP has subconsciously been sorted.
You Can Read It From Start To Finish Without Cringing (Much)
While a writer’s work is never done and you’ll always see sentences to change, or darlings to cut, when you reach the stage where you’re going through the pages like a reader instead of an editor cringing at every word choice, it’s a sign your work has finally come together.
The Final Beta Reader Praises You
There are the first beta readers (some writers call them alphas) that get to experience the early messy drafts. After that are the betas who read the versions where you’ve incorporated changes and feedback. Lastly, there’s the final beta, the lucky person who gets to devour your book when it’s the best you can make it. When you’re feedback is less about edits and more about praise, go out on the high. Your work on that particular MS is done.
You’re Just Tinkering
If you can read your work from start to finish, and your last beta has given you no constructive criticism, but you’re still going through each chapter, agonizing over comma placement or deleting a word before adding it back on your next read through—stop! You’re just tinkering.
While you might not agree your MS is “done”, if you’re experiencing these signs, it’s highly likely it is. Get out of your own way. Celebrate the fact you’ve completed such a huge task and type “The End” and mean it.
All the joys of working with stubborn characters, eavesdropping in cafes for realistic dialogue, forgetting why you wanted to write in the first place, and crippling self-doubt will be waiting to plague you with your next manuscript. You should be faster by then because you’re a serious writer now. If not, there’s always the next MS, and the next, and the one after that. Just don’t forget to move onto them when it’s time. Those manuscripts won’t write themselves (it’s true, I’ve checked).
— K.M. Allan