What happens after the manuscript is done?

There comes a point in time when you realize that the manuscript is ready to go out there. Or at least you want to believe that. My fantasy manuscript is ready and I’ve already started seeing publishing options (I’ll check first the traditional options and if not, self-publishing). The process is long, so what happens in the meantime?

I could have waited and concentrated my energy for the fantasy manuscript to reach its end-result: the published book. But for some reason, I decided that while I wait for replies on query letters, I could start working on a new project. Therefore, I’ve started a new manuscript on a new different story, based on an idea has been nagging me for some time and I didn’t want to wait anymore.

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I realized that as I get more into this writing process, the better I feel. I spent a lot of time on my first original thriller manuscript (which was left incomplete several years ago – it is still lying there, dormant), but the story had too many plot holes, and the characters were too simple. Perhaps, I’ll come back to it some day, with a refreshed and more interesting approach- or a complete revamp. In the meantime, if you count that original manuscript, the recently finished fantasy one, then this would be the third time starting the whole process of writing a new story. And I feel it gets better with time. I’ve also realized I’m definitely not a plotter, not a pantser, but a mix of the two.

When I started my fantasy manuscript, I found an interesting technique that I’m considering this time too. I started writing as a pantser, wanting to know where the characters and story led me to. But then I realized that if you keep as a pantser, you face the risk of entering an endless journey with no direction. So I stopped, and came back to analyze the story and characters. This process worked very well during the fantasy manuscript. Characters were one of my best improvements and I feel very proud of how they developed in my fantasy manuscript. Still, the story plot became too complex at some point, and there were some editing rounds where I had to “patch” some massive story plot holes.

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In the new manuscript, let’s call it the “dystopian” one, which is more or less the genre of this one, I feel more confident about “sketching” characters, letting them being, and experimenting changes. I think I got a better hold on that process. Now, I want to improve the process for developing my storyline. I’m planning on introducing a bit more “plotting” on this manuscript to not lose as much track of it as it happened on the fantasy one. However, I’m definitely not planning on becoming a rigid plotter, killing my creativity and adaptability to change.

I’ve already written the first 45 pages of the dystopian manuscript .They were mostly done in a pantser “state”. Then I stopped. Now I’m going through these 45 pages to give it more structure. I want to still be able to fly with the story, let my writing spirit be free, but with a bit more of structure. It is working rather well until now.

In addition, I’m starting to do deeper editing from the start. I want this first manuscript draft to be in a more decent readable state than my previous manuscripts where the first draft was barely readable. I hope this approach works better so that future editing rounds are not as hard and time consuming than previous ones. Also, I’ll start searching for beta readers in an earlier stage. Feedback is important. It is tough on writers, but we need it. Let’s see how my new writing approach works now.

And you, do you feel your writing process improves with each project?

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Writing in confinement

I haven’t written in my Blog in while, as always. I wanted to focus any writing effort to working on my manuscript. I finally finished doing my second round of editing review, and now I don’t feel guilty to swift my attention to other type of writing.

From all the bad things that this confinement has brought to our lives, there is one that has been positive for me. I have been able to find the time and discipline to finish editing my manuscript. I already had a plan before the confinement. I was trying to work at least one hour per day on editing. However, I must confess there were many days when I wouldn’t work since I would be absorbed by time, work, and other activities. The quarantine in my country has pushed me to be more responsible with my editing, but more than anything, I have to be honest I felt afraid.

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This pandemic has brought fear in general to our lives and nobody knows how our future will be. I wanted to have at least this goal finished in my life. It has been one week since I’ve finished editing. There is still a lot to do with the manuscript. I have one dear friend helping me with her expert editing eye. I’ll be also finding other people to beta read it and then start seeing options of how can I get this out there. But more than anything, finishing that goal has brought me a good sense of peace in my mind. I already have some other stories luring in my head and some good ideas for new manuscripts. I might explore them later. But for now, I’m giving myself some weeks to rest. Writing, editing and working has been a bit tough on my schedule and I urgently need that rest.

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This blog post didn’t have any specific topic in mind. I just wanted to get this update out there for anyone that might be reading my blog and register this point in my lifetime. If there is something good we can get from these hard times, it is the time to finish some personal goals.

My country is in a very strict control and quarantine. Only people that are between 18 and 65 years old can go out and on a specific schedule depending on the last number of your ID. For example, I can only go out to the street on Mondays, from 7am to 12pm. Everybody must remain at home on afternoons and evenings, and weekends. If you are out of your home after 12 pm or if your ID doesn’t match the “ID of the day”, you get arrested, taken to jail, and you have to pay a fine. In other words, you can’t even go around the park or to take a walk around your neighborhood. Driving is, of course, completely banned, unless you have a special permit. Markets, supermarkets, and pharmacies are opened. Other business are not, including restaurants. There are no delivery services of any kind, only pharmacies. If you need to move to another location in the city on the day you are allowed to go out, you have to walk. There are no means of public transportation. It is quite tough, but needed. I’m crossing fingers, the situation will get better. It is a good time for writing but bad time for a writer’s spirit.

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And you, how is your writing dealing with these times?

Editing methods

After a general revision of my manuscript – where I wanted to make sure that the story, plot and characters made sense – I’ve started a new round of more in depth revision/editing of my writing. To be honest, I wasn’t actually looking to this stage. I still have memories of endless rounds of editing in a previous manuscript that didn’t end that well (that project is now on standby for the moment). I remember spending a lot of time on individual paragraphs, re-writing the sentences, changing words, sentence order, etc. and making the editing process so long that I began to hate it.

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With this new project, my approach has been very different from the beginning. I had learned lots of lessons from my previous project and I didn’t want to make the same errors on this one. Writing the first manuscript was fun. It took me a lot of time but the process was enjoyable. The story and characters acquired a life of their own which helped me sustain the story until the very end (and unexpectedly with a chance for a second part if some day I decide to do it). I focused first on making sure that the characters were strong and that the story made sense. Later I would worry about the writing. And now the time has come.

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I began editing a couple of weeks ago and surprisingly it hasn’t been that bad. I’m not hating it and I still feel energized enough to continue this lengthy process. For this editing round, I’ve set up a list of what I really want to check in my writing:

  • Punctuation
  • Verbalization – that I’m using strong verbs and that I’m avoiding the “to be” verb whenever possible as I know it makes writing weak. Although, sometimes it makes more sense than any other verb.
  • Adverbs – Following the advice from many writing books, I’m trying to avoid them as much as possible.
  • “Excess” words – detecting those words that don’t add much to the writing, like “very”.
  • Passive voice – trying to get rid of this as much as possible as it also weakens the writing – although not always possible.
  • Order of sentences in a paragraph – Are they in the best order? Could I improve the order.
  • Connection with next paragraph – Does the paragraph ends well? Can I connect the paragraphs better, making it more interesting and prompting the reader to continue reading further?

There are many other “factors” to consider when editing your own writing and I know I haven’t considered all of them. But I wanted to only take into account the ones that I consider the most important ones. I didn’t want to re-write all the words thinking of all possible grammatical issues/improvements and fall into a never ending process again.

Aside from that, I’m using three tools to help me with the points above:

http://www.hemingwayapp.com/ to help you detect passive voice, adverbs, long sentences, etc

https://www.naturalreaders.com/online/ – this tool reads out loud your paragraphs. It’s very helpful as listening a voice read your text makes it easier to detect if the writing sounds good, if there are some weird structures, and if the sentences could be ordered better.

Grammarly – I’m using the free browser version that detects misspellings and basic punctuation and grammatical structure. It sort of double-checks the same as the Hemingway App. There is a paid version but too expensive for me right now.

Do you know of other free tools that might also help in this process?

What else do you consider that it’s important to check when revising your writing?

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People revising your manuscript

My previous post was published more than 3 months ago. I remember telling myself: I won’t distract myself from any other kind of writing until I have my current first manuscript ready. I originally targeted to finish it by January and Look! we’re almost in the middle of the year. Sigh… It took longer than expected but it’s finally done.

I initially had one friend volunteering to read it. She was an encouragement as I had told her it would be ready for January and having her asking about its status helped me push through the line and finish it. I soon found out I had two other volunteers to read it. That was exciting but it also made nervous. Extremely nervous. Why? Well, my mind was invaded by these thoughts:

  • What happens if the whole plot doesn’t make sense or is boring to death?
  • What happens if the whole idea of writing a book is not for me?
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I’m an amateur writer and always have self-doubts about my writing skills. I’m usually not that insecure about life in general but writing is important to me and therefore I tend to feel vulnerable to people revising my manuscript. But then I gather myself, I exhale loudly and I think that this comes with the process. I have to learn to listen to feedback and trust in my work. I’m starting; there is a lot to learn. I have to accept the challenge and keep my faith that hard work makes the master.

And you how do you feel when people start revising your manuscript?

One paragraph at a time in a never ending editing process

I finally finished my first manuscript of a fantasy novel I’ve been working for almost a year. I learned many lessons the last time I worked with a manuscript, one is that finishing the first manuscript is only a small step in achieving a readable book. Numerous rounds of editing and revision come after this, and they can become endless. They are not the nicest part of writing a book, at least not for me.

Last time I learned that before going into heavy editing, it is better to have a manuscript that you like, one where you feel satisfied with the story, the plot makes sense, you like the characters and they are likable. I learned that you have to be happy with what you wrote. You will need people who read your work, people who will criticize the plot, the characters and tell you how does the story feel. You will probably get lots of suggestions and you might need to rewrite chapters a couple of times more. Last time I understood there was no need to get into heavy editing if you were still working on the story development.

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But for the first round of people who will read your work, you have to have a manuscript that is readable. This is the reason I felt I needed one round of revision for plot consistency, character check, setting description, and at least decent writing – a writing that will still be workable and can , of course, be improved.

I’m not going for restructuring sentences, changing verbs, or more in depth editing, but it is still taking time. A lot of it. Somehow my first manuscript has managed to end with around 110 000 words or around 410 pages, and even though I’m doing a “quick revision” it still takes time. I still have a full time job and other activities, but I’m trying to find at least one hour a day to work on this. In an hour I usually deal with 5 or 8 pages, which means it is taking a lot of time. I told a friend I would be giving her the book for her critique around February, but it is already March and I haven’t reached the middle of the book with this “quick editing.”

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However, the writing process works this way, there is no easy path. Each day I’m a couple of pages done. A couple of pages more than yesterday, one paragraph more than before. I feel like doing tiny steps, but at least the steps are being given. And If I’m a couple of paragraphs done each day, then I guess it will come a time when I will finish the manuscript. One paragraph at a time. After all, writing is about the process itself.

And you how do you deal with rounds of editing?