My novel is finished

Writing a novel – a writer’s journal part 19


I actually did it. I have finished writing the first draft of my novel for children. I wrote the last words this afternoon.

My target was 40,000 words which is set down as a requirement by my lecturers. (This is my thesis paper for my Master of Arts Creative Writing degree.) In the end I finished on about 39,175 words which is good. It gives me a little flexibility during the rewriting stage. I know there will be extra things I want to include in a few places. The maximum word count is a guide only anyway, but we really can’t stray too far under or over. In reality it may have been better to be over by a few thousand words; it is much easier to cut rather than add words.

Next stage: rewriting

I’m going to let it sit for a few days before getting back to it. Ideally I might be better off leaving it for a few weeks, but with a deadline of the end of November I don’t have that luxury. The next stage is to go through the whole manuscript, rewriting sentences and passages as needed. I know I have some problems with point of view in the early chapters, for example. I will also sit down with my supervising lecturer and analyse whether there needs to be any structural changes. This will inevitably lead to more rewriting.


The next crucial stage is editing. In this stage I will go back over the whole manuscript, looking at all the fine details of spelling, punctuation, word usage (is this the best word to use here?), grammar and sentence construction. It is a process I do not enjoy. I’ve been trying to get to ‘like’ this stage as an important step in the creative writing process. I don’t think I’ll ever ‘love’ it. At present I tolerate it as a necessary stage towards getting published.


The final stage is proofreading. In this stage I will check every letter, every word, every punctuation mark and make sure everything is perfect.

I have a few busy weeks ahead.

Good writing.

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8 Responses to “My novel is finished”

  1. Jay Tee says:

    Congratulations on finishing your manuscript!! That is a great achievement.

    If you want help with editing, check out the AutoCrit Editing Wizard. The Wizard is like an instant book editor. With a click of a button, it shows you the weaknesses in your manuscript.

    I love it. It finds things I missed and helps me edit faster, too.

  2. Trevor says:

    Thanks Jay – welcome to my blog about writing.

    Thanks too for the suggestion with the editing wizard. Will check it out – after I’ve had a few days recovering from the writing and before I start editing.

    Both of my supervising lecturers are excellent editors too, so there is no excuse for me submitting a faulty manuscript when the time comes.

  3. Ken Rolph says:

    You make a distinction between rewriting and editing. I wonder if that disctinction could be maintained if we looked at it closely? What is the difference between rewriting and checking word usage?

    Personally I like diving back into some writing after a period away. I like getting lost in it again and polishing it to make it clearer. I can go around and about a piece many times. In fact I am sometimes sad when it has to leave home and get published. Then it is something I can no longer improve.

  4. Penny Lane says:

    Trevor, I have just come across your website and am enjoying reading your posts. Well done on getting the first draft of your novel finished. I am a writer who LOVES the editing process, but only if I leave it for several weeks after having completed the first draft. I am then in a different frame of mind and can look at it as a fresh task. If I launch immediately into editing, it seems just a continuation of the writing and I generally cannot see the need at that stage to rewrite. Perhaps you could try a different approach when editing – imagine someone else wrote the first draft and you are improving it for them!

  5. Trevor says:

    Thanks for the comments Ken.

    I agree that there is a fine line between rewriting and editing. One of my lecturers is quite adamant that there is a huge difference. I see them as distinct but closely related. What you call them is not important. It’s the process that is crucial.

    By rewriting I mean going back over the whole text and literally rewriting whole passages – perhaps even whole chapters. In my case, there should be a minimal amount of this as I strive for my first draft to be very good. Blogging – as well as many aspects of the course work for my MA – has taught me to write quickly and accurately. It comes with experience – the more you write the better you get at it.

    Despite that, I know that there are quite a few passages where I need to scrap what I’ve written and rewrite afresh. Rosanne Hawke, my supervisor, (and fellow students) have pointed out that in the early chapters I have managed to have an inconsistent and shifting point of view which is confusing to the reader. It is very important to be consistent with POV in children’s books.
    In some cases only a sentence or two need rewriting; in other areas it can be as much as a paragraph or part of a chapter.

    There will also be some cultural elements relating to my setting (Nepal) that I still want to include. My first draft was just getting the story down. This element of the rewriting is more fine tuning the story, adding local colour, cultural references, locally used words and expressions and so on. I’m striving for authenticity; all I have at present is the plot. (Perhaps that is being a little harsh on myself! I hope you get the point.)

    Editing on the other hand is a distinct discipline. In this stage I will look at all the nitty-gritty elements of spelling, punctuation, word usage, grammar and sentence construction. It really is a nit-picking stage. Basically being an editor with a big red pencil. A bit like how I marked students’ work when I was a classroom teacher.

    The editing process is also distinct from the proofreading stage. This last stage is checking that everything is totally correct, that there are no typos and the finished manuscript is perfect in every way. You don’t look for elements of style or even grammar at this stage.

  6. Trevor says:

    Thanks for your kind words Penny.

    I will acknowledge that there are some strange people like yourself who actually enjoy – nay – welcome the editing stage. I am trying to teach myself to like it – I may never get to the point of loving it but we’ll see. Miracles still can happen!

    Unfortunately I can only leave this manuscript for about 4-5 days at most before launching into the next stage. I’m on a tight time line to get it all finished. A period of 4-6 weeks of illness mid year put me way behind and now is catch up time. I always say I work best under pressure!!

    I love your last suggestion and I will try to imagine it is someone else who wrote the story. Too often we get far too close to our little “baby” to see its flaws.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  7. Ken Rolph says:

    The term “line editing” is sometimes used to refer to the proofreading kind of editing. We are probably just stuck with sloppy terms here. I would think of re-writing as still writing. I seem to go round and round so there’s no distinct finishing of stages.

    If you want to get some distance on your own writing, try editing something your wrote 40 years ago. It seems like you are editing the work of someone you know quite well, but is not you. I have recently done this with my “corpus” and found I could approach it in quite a detached manner. Generally I can’t bring myself to read something in the few days after I have officially finished it in my mind. Makes it hard when deadlines come crashing at you.

  8. Trevor says:

    Yes, Ken, you are right about the “sloppy” terms that we use.

    I like your idea of going back to some writing from early in one’s life and editing that. I have many poems written 30+ years ago that probably could see publication – but only after much work on them. What I know now from doing my MA course work can be put to good use in polishing them. Some earlier stories could also do with the same treatment.

    And then I have four novels for children written in the 1980s and early 90s which will need much work on them with my new found knowledge and skills. Two of these have been submitted but rejected by publishers. Now I know why. Lots of editing and rewriting or whatever ahead.

    No rest for this little possum.