Reaching the Finish Line
You've finished your manuscript. Typing “The End” is a big deal because while a lot of people can start a book, not everyone can, or will, finish one. So, congratulations! Celebrate your accomplishment.
But before you say farewell to your cast of characters or place your book in an agent's or editor's hands, take the time to give your book its last polish. Is your prose tight enough, your plot paced fast enough? Are your characters lovable from page one to the end?
It's common for writers to resist rewriting. Some want to believe their words are perfect, and need no revision. Others are tired of the story and want to move on to a new idea. However, the truth is that most authors get the words right, not by writing, but by rewriting. The difference between a rejection and acceptance may depend on your last polish.
The unwillingness to revisit your book, to nip, tuck, and improve what's on the paper is a sign of an amateur. Don't be in a hurry.
It's okay to take some time before diving back in to polish. Actually, it's probably best. You will need some distance from your work before you can look at your book and see where it might need tweaking.
How much time should I be away from my book before doing the last polish?
For some writers, a week away from their work allows them to read with fresh eyes. Others need a month. However long it takes, remember the time is probably worth it. Your ultimate goal is to build a career, not simply to get the manuscript to the agent.
Many writers use the time between books to either plot out a new book or to write a shorter piece in hopes of publishing them so they can beef up their resume. Others take the time to read a how-to book, take an online class, or do some market research about where their work best fits. You don't have to waste the “distancing” time; use it wisely to improve your craft.
If someone placed a savory meal in front of you and then asked how it was, you might say, “It was great.” But if they asked, “Did you taste the garlic in the potatoes, and were the green beans a bit salty?” You might be tempted to grab the fork and taste the potatoes and then the green beans again.
Polishing your manuscript is like a taste test for an entire meal. You need to focus on one item at a time to really be subjective.
Polishing your book will probably require several reads as you focus on different aspects. If you attempt to do one read-through and look for all possible problematic issues, you may miss something.
By focusing on one or perhaps two aspects at a time as you read and polish your book, you are much more likely to get a real taste of what's right and what might need to be seasoned a little differently.