Signs You’re Ready To Move Onto A New Manuscript

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

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20 thoughts on “Signs You’re Ready To Move Onto A New Manuscript

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  1. I’ve got one manuscript that I’ve been working on for over a year. But, I guess to be fair, “working on” is kind of a stretch. I wrote it. Revised it. Then got some feedback that pushed me toward a much bigger re-write… which I did for the first quarter of the book, then just stopped. I need to find my motivation to get started again… and I know I’m being petulant because this reworking isn’t nearly as much fun as the initial drafting. Thoughts on how to kick my motivation back into gear so I can finish this piece (and ultimately work on something else)?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Right there with you, Kendra. I’m currently revising a manuscript I considered finished two years ago. Feedback and rejection proved it wasn’t. Instead of working on a totally new story, like I planned to at the start of this year, I’ve spent the last few months re-writing and editing this old manuscript. There were times when I lost my motivation too because it felt like such a chore and I’d been through it so many times already. I found adding something new to a scene (where warranted) or reworking stale passages motivated me a bit more, but that all depends on whether you want to do that to your MS. Unfortunately, the only real way to finish a piece is to just sit down and finish it.

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    2. I was making several changes that I was afraid to face. What helped me was to leave it be for a bit, read a book or two and then come back with fresh eyes. Look at it again, see why it does not work and hope to get some idea that works better. When I got that idea… well, I became eager to go and try how well it’ll work and was pulled back into writing.

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  2. I’ve just sent my latest draft to my first two beta readers and now I am anxiously awaiting to see what they have to say. There’s stage fright, of course. Still, even at that point, it’s good to read this so I have some idea when it’s time to draw the line and write “to be continued in book two” because I’ll only write “the end” when the whole trilogy is complete.

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  3. Great advice, Kate! I’ve been wondering this myself for a while, so this post was just what I needed. I’ve been hoping to be ready to submit by September, then finish my outline for novel 2 throughout October. This way I could use NaNoWriMo to get a great head start on the second book (if uni and work allows the time!) But part of me is still worried about “finishing” book one too soon. I know submissions do not mean that no more editing is to come, in fact there’s probably plenty more on the horizon. But I can’t let my other ideas stay in the notebook for too long!
    Another wonderful post ❤

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    1. Thanks, Meelie! Having read your book one, I can say you’ve got the overall story nailed. That’s the majority of the work done right there. Only you’ll know if still needs editing, but if some of these signs are sounding familiar, then I’m sure you’ll be ready to meet your September goal 😊.

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  4. I can more or less tackle two projects at the same time, if they happen to be connected and on the same genre – did that through January, then later in April and May, but both MS shared characters, locations, plot, a whole universe, in fact. If the genre or the whole concept differ too much, I can’t do it, and every new idea has to wait or be tackled with straight away, which means I will end up dropping the WIP to start something new. This was me all through my teens and early twenties, never really finishing what I started because a new shiny idea had just sprouted in my brain. Nowadays, I know I’m ready for a completely new work when I write The End, despite the edits and whatever comes after, that story is done, the skelleton is there, the basics, it’s all there, just needs a bit of work, but the main is complete. And by the time the skeleton’s there, I will also have a bit of flesh added, muscle too. Needs skin, and all the rest, but that’s when a new skeleton starts forming in my head and I know I’m ready to go and dive into a new world, new characters, new stories. I usually edit through writing a new WIP and am fine with it. I know lots of people can’t edit a finished MS while writing a new one, but I’m not that person, I’m a bit of a ‘sleeparound’ when it comes to my own writing ahahahh

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  5. Love this advice. We have to know when to say “enough.” Your first point rings so true for me; at first, moving on to a new WIP, I felt like I was cheating on the old one–but that adventure is wrapped up (at least for now–an editor may disagree). Such a wonderful feeling to move on to new characters and new stories–after soooo long!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Rebecca 😊. Glad to hear you could relate. I tried to start a new book earlier this year but couldn’t move past my old one. Turns out it was not ready at all and I ended up rewriting some of it instead of starting something fresh. Hopefully soon I’ll be working on something different. It’s been a long time coming. Good luck with your new characters and stories.

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  6. Reblogged this on Suburban Syntax and commented:
    Another great post by K.M. Allan.

    This focuses on when you’ve completed revisions and re-writes. I often struggle with “in process” manuscripts and wonder whether to finish them if I’m not feeling that same passion for the story. I’ve been told it’s a natural part of the novel writing process.

    Liked by 2 people

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