So, you have a finalised manuscript. But do you really?
Hemingway believed, “The first draft of anything is shit,” and “The only kind of writing is rewriting.” He reportedly rewrote portions of The Old Man and the Sea over two hundred times before he had it published.
“Deciding what constitutes a finalised manuscript can be agonising. There are so many potential tweaks and changes that can be effected. A good check-list can make the task a little easier.”
But how do you know when what you’ve written is a finalised manuscript ready to be pushed out into the world? Other than that warm, fuzzy feeling in your stomach, which could be the result of that last glass of Merlot?
Margret Geraghty’s, The Novelist’s Guide, offers some suggestions:
- Does your story start in the right place? Not too soon or too late?
- Is your first chapter or scene riveting and compelling?
- Does each scene have structure and purpose?
- Do most of your scenes or chapters end on a hook?
- Are your flashbacks absolutely necessary?
- Have you prepared the reader or audience for surprises through foreshadowing?
- Are your characters authentic and compelling?
- Does your protagonist have difficult problems to overcome, leading to the final solution?
- Does your protagonist solve the ultimate problem by realising something about herself she was unaware of before?
- Are your characters’ names right for them?
- Do your characters have their own unique voice – idiom, speech pattern?
- Are the settings interesting?
- Do you invoke the senses in your scenes.
- Is your ending surprising but inevitable?
- Does it yield the theme you intended?
If you’ve answered no or maybe to any of these questions, return to your manuscript, revise and repeat. If yes, you are ready to publish your story and start on the next one.
A finalised manuscript is one where the fundamentals of theme, character and plot have been identified and revised.