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Keep Writing: The Importance Of Finishing Stories, by Andy Briggs

Villain.net by Andy Briggs

I always feel awkward when I meet a budding writer. Most of the time people tell me they have a great idea for a book or, worse, they have started writing a book. Actually started it. What is very rare to hear is the phrase I have written a book. Everybody can start writing a book. Very few people ever finish it.

It sounds like the most obvious advice in the world to finish your story, but it’s difficult. Try it and prove me wrong.

Perhaps you already have proved me wrong and are clutching your precious manuscript in your hands. If so, have you edited it? Have you been through it three or four times and surgically remove chunks that don’t work and fine-tuned the rest?

Much “How To” advises you to let a friend read your manuscript. I never let them do that. Family and friends are the worst critics and will often let things pass that should have been hacked from your manuscript before another soul sets eyes on it. There are also many services that charge you for reading your work and giving you feedback. Personally, I think you should avoid these. Worst case, they are run by people who can’t get themselves published (or editors who can’t get a job with a publisher), best case, they are driven by opinion. They might not like vampire stories so will tear yours apart, whereas an editor in a real publishing company might be waiting for just that idea.

Or, are you one of these people who has reread your work and changed it time-and-time again? You have been rewriting it for the last 10 years. Well done, you have probably destroyed the very thing that made it unique. I know a few people who fall into this hideous rewriting free-fall and never recover. They have polished their idea to death.

So what do you do with your precious manuscript?

In an ideal world, you will lock it away in a draw (in the days of good ol’ paper), or back it up on a hard drive (preferably more than one, just in case). Then forget about it and write something else.

Then repeat the above steps several times.

Now you have four or five manuscripts. Go back and read the first one. Is it anywhere near as good as number five? Probably not. You would have got better and saved yourself a lot of angst when book one kept getting rejected. Or is book one still strong? In which case, send it off, because you have a solid, well-written story.

The more you write the better you will become. The more you write the more stories you have to sell. The more you write the more professional you will become, regardless of whether you ever publish any of the books.

More importantly, the more stories you write the more you have finished. Finishing the story is the real battle every writer, amateur or professional, has to face.

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Andy Briggs’s author website: www.andybriggs.co.uk

Andy Briggs’s bio page

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5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Thank you. This is exactly what I needed to hear. I have indeed finished my story and I have just finished my 7th revision of it…..I’ll try not to over polish it though.

    November 25, 2013
  2. Great post and advice 🙂

    November 25, 2013
  3. jenohagan #

    Thanks for your post – some great advice though I think some freelance editors know what they are doing.

    I’ve finished three manuscripts and am halfway through my fourth. Edited and reedited – check; sent to betareaders, check; sent to publishers (first one of series) check; published – not yet. In the meantime, I keep writing.

    I agree that rereading earlier manuscripts is an interesting exercise – and shows what one has learnt of the craft however, I still love the stories.

    November 25, 2013
  4. Setting a manuscript aside for a while to let it simmer in your mind is definitely a good idea; it’s hard to judge it when it’s so fresh.

    I do believe there are some great freelance editors out there. Former agent Nathan Bransford even suggested on his blog that you don’t start querying until you’ve paid a professional to look over your manuscript.

    Great post!

    November 25, 2013

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