Okay, I’m Done. Now What?

You’re “done” you say? That begs a few questions. Like:

  • Are you finished with the rough draft/first “complete” manuscript?
  • Are you finished with all the updates of your first draft?
  • Have you given up altogether?
  • Are you ready to start on another title?
  • What’s next?

First draft finish line reached!

Typing “The End” at the bottom of the last page can be extremely satisfying. It’s not as mind-blowing as holding a copy of your first book in your hands, but it’s still pretty darn cool. And it deserves a celebration of some kind. Take your significant other out for dinner or go play golf with the gang you’ve been ignoring for the past several months. Play with your kids, if you have any, or try making some. <shrug> Walk the dog. Enjoy life away from the keyboard for a while.

If you’re really smart, you’ll ignore that manuscript for a couple weeks, maybe even a month, just to let it cool off. Even if you’re a big-time author–and if you are, I can’t imagine why you’re reading this–you need some objectivity. The cooling-off period will let you be more objective about what needs fixing, and there’s always something.

I suggest reading the full manuscript out loud, with feeling. Seriously. It’ll slow your brain down long enough to allow you to spot some errors. You won’t get them all; no one does. But you’ll get a bunch. Many writers decide on a re-write at this point. Many, like me, don’t. Some writers fill out missing chunks, add setting, trim dialog, hunt down adverbs and pet phrases, or focus on tightening text. You’ll need to do some or all of this. (How much? That’s hard to say. I just finished my eighteenth novel, and one of my readers found errors in the third revised manuscript.)

At some point, you’ll declare your brainchild ready for the world. It’s not. You still need to run it by your First Readers, that cadre of trusted souls who will crawl through your words in search of every niggling little booboo, every innocent tyop, and every literary faux pas they can find. When they do find them–and they will–praise them to the heavens. Treat them to chocolate and adult beverages, for they have done you an invaluable service; they’ve saved you from looking like an idiot, or worse.

Fix everything! Then, and only then, are you ready for the next step.

To hell with it! I’m done.

Sadly, quite a few writers give up before they reach the finish line. There’s no shame in that. Writing a novel is hard, and writing a good one is even harder. And just imagine how many people you know will be able to say “I told you so!” (They will, too, because they can; they’re not-so-secretly pleased that you failed at something they couldn’t even imagine doing.) But, if you’re still reading this, I suspect there’s a part of you that isn’t ready to abandon all the time and effort you’ve already spent on your project. Maybe you just need a break, a little time to get your head straight and your creative side re-energized. That’s okay, too.

While thus occupied, consider re-reading my thoughts on what to do when you’re stuck. You’ll find them here. You wouldn’t be the first writer to think about quitting just because the job turned out to be harder than you thought it would be. So give these possible fixes a shot. Who knows? You might find yourself moving forward again.

Ready to start on something new?

Cool! But before you jump headlong into the next project, give some thought to what you learned doing the last one. Were there mistakes you’d rather not repeat? Knowing what you know now, would you have approached your last book differently? How much of that will apply to the new project? Why not write those thoughts down so you can review them as you move on? You’ve written a book and learned some valuable lessons. Don’t ignore ’em!

Okay, manuscript, it’s time. Make me famous. Or rich. Or something.

Much as I’d like to squeeze this in here, it really deserves its own spot. So, I’ll tackle that next time. For now, I’m curious to know how other people feel when they reach the finish line for a first draft. Relief? Exuberance? Disappointment? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.


About joshlangston

Grateful and well-loved husband, happy grandparent, novelist, editor, and teacher. My life plate is full, and I couldn't be happier. Anything else I might add would be anticlimactic. Cheers!
This entry was posted in editing, Memoir, novel writing, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Okay, I’m Done. Now What?


    Hello, friend, loved you Sunday sermon. Agree with all of it, especially the reading aloud. In fact, at my earlier group, we read a piece every time. Seems that nobody learns more from that than the reader her/himself. Thanks for all. Erika

    Sent from my iPad


  2. Lou says:

    I’ve finished my 1st, 22nd, 104th draft – who knows? – and I’m terrified. I feel like I’m going to be dropped off in the middle of Times Square, naked, while everyone stares, feeling sorry for me and whispering behind my back.

  3. Bob Williamson says:

    Hi Josh

    I’ve written two books. I was happy when I was over. Thought my endings were great or at least okay. The first book was too long so I had to chop it in half. That left me with an imperfect ending. If I had the time I’d withdraw it and try to re-write two books ( I don’t have the time though, so I won’t). My second book is here on my computer. I’m going to have to choose an ending and go with it. And I think I will.

    I myself dare you to finish 50 or 70,000 words and try to re-read them without changing something.


    • joshlangston says:

      Sorry, Bob, I can’t take that dare. [Grin] I know I’d be changing things left and right. The temptation is to go beyond fixing typos; the big risk is a never-ending cycle of revision. At some point, you just have to declare it DONE. I wish you the best with your projects!

  4. Hey, Josh! Congratulations on finishing your 18th novel!! When I finally finished all the stories for “Be Still,” I felt a mixture of relief and disbelief since I wondered if I’d ever get it done. There was plenty more fine tuning to do, but you and Jessie got me over the finish line! The idea for my second book has been taking shape over the past year. I hope to make it a reality before Christmas.

  5. Don says:

    Realizing this has been a tad longer of thoughtful writing all I can say is congratulations. Now maybe you can kickback a little?

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