What Does It Mean to “Finish” Writing a Book?

When is it ever done?

When is it ever done?

I had an extra cookie the other night to celebrate “finishing” the manuscript of Peyote Fire, for the second time. What exactly does “finish” mean?  Well, in this case it means I’ve got all the scenes written. Even though they may still not be in the right order, or written from the right point of view. In other words, I’ve still got a lot of work to do.

Give the manuscript a careful reading

Give the manuscript a careful reading

For one thing, I’ve still got to sit down and read the whole thing through.  I haven’t done that yet.  I’ve only read it as I wrote each section, one by one.  So I don’t even know if the story hangs together.  OK, I’ll put this on the list: Read entire manuscript.

Then, I’ll need to make all the changes and revisions I find as I read.  That should take a while.   Mark out the rest of February for that.  Add to list: Make changes.

Then, I’ll need to add the changes and revisions I wrote out on another list this afternoon. These changes arose from going back through my notes and comments from my profoundly wonderful and necessary friend Anna, who is serving as my accountability coach. Add to list: Make more changes.

Next week I’m starting a six-week novel-writing seminar, so I’ll have to incorporate the

Structure? What structure?

Structure? What structure?

suggestions and ideas I get from that as well. Put on list: Make seminar changes.

Then I’ll have to print the whole thing out and read it through again. There goes March.  Next I’ll have to work up my courage and send the manuscript to a few trusted readers.  Oh boy, I can’t wait to see what they have to say!  One of those readers will be my husband Steve, who is knee-deep in cave dust this spring leading an excavation in Eagle Nest Canyon.  I’m counting on him to be my primary fact-checker.  I have no doubt he’ll let me know if any of my facts about the ancient Lower Pecos are incorrect.  Mark off April to get over my shame.

Editing is essential

Editing is essential

Then, after I rewrite again to incorporate the wisdom of my readers (I’m just praying they don’t say chuck it and start over!), the fun of formatting will begin.  I’m stocking up on acetaminphen even now. Most writers will tell you this is their least favorite part.

Have I got marketing on the list?  Working on the blog, keeping up with Facebook, doing the social media thing?  And what about a cover?  Where am I going to find art for that?  If I decide to submit the manuscript to a traditional publisher, I’ll also have to find an agent.  How do I do that?

So you see, “finished” is a pretty loose concept when it comes to writing fiction. I’m hoping I can keep my momentum going long enough to see this project through. Meanwhile Deer Cloud is getting stronger and Jumping Rabbit is coming into her own.  I can’t wait to see how their story ends!


20 thoughts on “What Does It Mean to “Finish” Writing a Book?

  1. Nice story, Mary. congratulations on finishing something like a complete book. That is something that should give you the pride to finish the other steps you describe so well. Shame? I doubt it. sounds like April is a quiet month, not the cruelest.

      • I have written many things, but a historical novel like yours? Are you kidding? No, not even a short story. So, I’m fascinated by your description of the steps you must take to bring your book to fruition. I sense your frustration in the process, but also your sense of satisfaction as you complete each step. And I know you well enough to know that
        1. You will see this entire operation through
        2. The result will be a wonderful book.

      • Thanks Carol. In the meantime if you hear a loud knocking, that will be my head beating on the desk.

      • No way! You are flipping a coin? I am just beginning and I intend to enter if only to have a deadline to meet.

        I like the blog and admire how consistent you are in your writing. I have a blog that you are welcome to follow. Perhaps I’ll do more writing and less navel gazing.

        Thanks for connecting and I look forward to seeing you at Third Thursday and other classes.

      • Let me know how it goes when you get near publication. I think a lot depends these days on WHO you think your audience is, and how you want them to find your work. Best wishes, Mary

  2. Mary, you know what path you must walk upon but you’ll do just fine. You are persistent and you have a vision. I’m so happy I’ve been along for the journey. I have no doubt you will feel so proud (and relieved!) when it’s all over. 🙂 Hang in there, my friend.

    • I wouldn’t be here at all without you, Anna! I can’t tell you how much it means to have you holding me accountable. The easy thing to do is just let the project go. The hard part is to keep going. You keep me going.

  3. I am extremely proud of you and I can’t wait to read it. If not before Canada this summer, then while you are there. Time on the boat doesn’t count, your room and my northern friends will be expecting you.

  4. I’ve been following your blogs for a year and love every one of them. You go girl! I can’t wait to read your book. It will bring back fabulous memories of shared times with you and Shumla friends in the Trans Pecos.

  5. Pingback: PROSE & CONS – WRITERS ON CRAFT | Scribe

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