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

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.
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?  And maybe I will decide to submit the book to a traditional publisher?  First I’d have to find an agent, so how do I do that?
Mary S. Black is Board Secretary for the Writers’ League of Texas. She has published articles on the pre-history, art  and archeology of the Lower Pecos Canyonland. Her first full length fiction manuscript is nearing completion. This article originally appeared on her blog at:

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