What to do with your unfinished manuscript in 2013

It’s a new year and everyone is making resolutions and predictions. When it comes to writing, there are three main options, especially if you’re halfway through a major project and wondering what will happen to it in the coming months.

Here are those options as I see them. How you choose is up to you, but don’t dilly dally. Indecision is a major cause of writer’s block and if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to end this coming year having moved both onwards and upwards.

Finish it

Okay, so that’s a pretty obvious place to start, but there really is no better feeling than getting to the end of a long and arduous writing project. When I finished A is for Angelica (for the first time), it was like nothing I’d experienced before.

Getting to the end and completing a manuscript is a huge achievement. If you’ve not done it before, make sure you do it this year. Whether it becomes a bestseller or sits in a drawer for the rest of its life, it doesn’t matter. You’ll have finished. You won’t regret it.

Change it

Why is your manuscript unfinished? What was it about 2012 that meant you couldn’t get to the end before 2013 came along? If your answer is that you only started in December, well that’s fair enough. If it’s because you were never quite sure about what you were doing, don’t be afraid to make changes.

Sometimes we set out on a writing expedition with grand plans and high hopes. But it doesn’t always pan out how we’d hoped. The trick is to not panic, assess the situation, and be prepared to make new plans. Different plans. Whatever it takes to get back on track and get finished.

Bin it

I know, it hurts doesn’t it? The concept of binning a manuscript when you’ve already invested a significant amount of time and effort is heartbreaking. You feel that surely, there must be another way. Can’t you just go back to that ‘change it’ idea and try something different?

Well, you can, but there are no guarantees. Sometimes a piece of writing, no matter how long it might be, just isn’t working. There’s not a lot that you can do but put your manuscript to one side and try something different. There is no shame in that. All writers abandon projects. Just make sure that you start something else.

What about me?

I plan to have a completed first draft of my second novel by the end of 2013. There, I’ve said it. It won’t be easy with a new job and two babies in the house, but I know that it needs to happen. I also plan to make more time for reading. It’s an important part of being a writer and always the first thing I let go when life gets busy. Not this year.

What about you?

What are your plans for 2013? Do you have an unfinished manuscript and if so, what the heck are you going to do with it? Let me know in the comments.

  1. I have one ms I’m putting in the drawer (have queried for a while now and think it needs to be put away at least temporarily before I make major changes to it), another I’m self publishing very soon after final edits, and another I’m just starting out writing. For 2013 I plan to finish the one I’m just starting and another WIP (second in a series to the one I’m self publishing)… there, now I’VE said it! (I don’t have two babies in the house like you do… wish I did!)

    1. That sounds rather action packed but that can often be a good thing. Huge amounts of luck! And it’s amazing the difference it can make to write or say something in public. It somehow makes it more official. And daunting. In a good way.

  2. I was hoping to get at the very least a first draft of my second novel done by summer 2013 – it’s not going to happen. My ‘real’ (or ‘main’) writer’s voice is still developing and right now it’s in complete conflict with the tone and atmosphere I want for this certain WIP, and every time I sit down to write it feels like it’s lurching uncomfortably between black comedy and atmosphere-driven horror. Every time I go away and graunch out some more graphs or Post-Its with plot on I write another chapter and think I’m making progress, then life intervenes and when I come back I’ve completely lost focus, which never happens with anything else. It frustrates me to hell but I’ll never throw it away: I care for the story and characters too much now. At worst I’ll put it in a drawer until 2014.
    An odd little side effect of this was that while I was trying to force out that WIP, ideas for another project that had lain dormant for a while came thick and fast, and now I find I’m writing something which I hadn’t expected to get around to until after the first one… it’s much more in tune with where my ‘voice’ is at right now, which feels so much more comfortable. I hope that with the new confidence this brings, with it will come enough practice to be able to do justice to my more horror-driven idea. 2013 will be the year I see if I’m able to do both…

    Thanks for another inspiring post, Iain!

  3. In 2012 I did just what you mention in the post: I finished my first ms! It’s big, over 600 pages, and I’m not sure what that means, but I’m so proud of it. My goal was to finish before I turned 30, which happened in November. You are absolutely right. There’s no feeling like writing that last word, getting a huge dopey grin, and saying to yourself (almost impossibly, it seems), “That’s it. That’s the end.”
    The project began five years ago, and two summers ago in earnest. I’m halfway through the complete edit, and can’t wait to see what happens next in the process.

    This year my plan is to begin querying agents, though I don’t know quite where to start precisely (I have a general idea, after much reading and research).

    Most of all, I’m excited that it all seems real. When I began, I wasn’t sure where I’d find 200 pages of words, let alone what this book has become.

    Here’s to 2013!

  4. It’s a good question, Iain. I’m not one for resolutions, but I’ve been working on a first draft of a novel for over two years. I’m only half-way through (for a bunch of boring reasons), but after reading your post, I think maybe this is the year I light a fire under my writing chair, get my ass in gear, and finish this draft. Good luck with your second novel!

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