There is often much talk about the best way to get started when writing a novel, but a much harder task for many writers is working out when it’s finished.
It sounds like a daft question. Surely, once you’ve written that last page, proofread and sent to your editor for final tweaking, it’s done, right?
Not quite. We think there are five things every writer needs to do before signing off their masterpiece as ‘finished’.
1. Read it as though you’ve bought it
A classic mistake made by inexperienced authors is to read their ‘finished’ work haphazardly.
Although this isn’t entirely unreasonable. If you’ve toiled away for months on end putting together over 60,000 words, the thought of reading the entire novel from cover to cover might be a little unpalatable.
However, it’s the most important thing you’ll do during the creative process. Because if you read it as though you’re someone who has handed over their hard earned money, you’ll gain a whole new perspective on what it is you’ve created.
Just be ready to be disappointed at times - and act on that disappointment.
2. Try the 10 scenario technique
If you’re a fiction writer, this is a particularly useful technique once you’ve finished your first draft.
If you’re asked to draw ten unique stick men, chances are you’ll lose inspiration after the third. But that’s when you’ll need to get inventive and reach into your creative locker to continue.
The ten scenario technique for writers operates in much the same way. It works on the premise that the writer develops ten different scenarios that detail the book - everything from its central theme and character arcs to the finale.
These scenarios don’t have to be long (a few hundred words will do it), but they do have to be unique, and in creating them, you should start to get a feel for where you may have missed opportunities to make the book the best it can be.
When you find elements within a particular scenario that appear to be missing from the novel - go back and add them in.
3. Write three drafts
There are some great single-draft writers out there, but they’re few and far between. For most of us, three is definitely the magic number.
The first draft is the book in its most embryonic form. The second fixes the major holes you find during the first full read through, while the third adds the polish and missing elements you discovered in your scenarios (see tip 2).
4. Send it to friends and family
Sending your completed manuscript onto friends and family is quite often the most nerve-wracking part of the writing process (more so, arguably, than sending it out to be published).
The thought of showing your hard work to the people closest to you might fill you with dread, but if you can do so with an open mind and acceptance that you might receive some crushingly honest advice from the more outspoken people in your life. Advice which could make the world of difference to your finished novel.
Friends and family are brilliant proof readers. So why not use them?
5. Listen to yourself; you’ll know when it’s finished
This is the simplest of them all, but is also the easiest indicator to overlook.
Chances are you’ll know when you’ve finished your novel to the point of it being ready to publish. And there won’t be anything you can solidly put your finger on to prove it - you’ll just feel that it’s done.
Your instincts as a self published author are vitally important. Make sure you follow them.