When you sign the contract you have to commit to a delivery date for your completed manuscript and publishers will schedule the book for publication based on that date.
Finishing a manuscript can be more challenging than some writers expect because it does feel different once you are under contract to a publisher and the pressure of an important deadline can interfere with the creative flow.
Even if you are planning on self-publishing your book, working to a deadline is a good idea. It will ensure that your writing is high enough up your priority list to get done and avoid the trap of it taking so long that you lose energy and enthusiasm for it.
So here are 5 tips to support you to complete your non-fiction manuscript:
- Always give yourself more time than you think you need. The reality is that your writing will take longer than you expect it to, especially if this is your first book.
Time and again I have worked with authors who are confident of their subject and under the impression that it “won’t take long to write it all down”.
Yet however familiar you are with the content, the writing process has a magic all of its own. You will almost certainly discover new ideas as you write and different ways of explaining your message on the page.
Consider this point carefully before you agree to the delivery date which goes into your contract. My recommendation is that for an average non-fiction book, four to six months from signature of the contract is a minimum you should agree to unless there is a really good reason to shorten that time frame.
- Work out a timetable and plan out what you should be working on when. Ancient Chinese wisdom tells us that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and this is how your manuscript is completed, one section at a time.
Thinking about it in this way means that it will feel less overwhelming. It also enables you to create a timetable of what you should be completing when.
This can be done with a pen and paper, on a whiteboard or using any number of calendar options on your computer. Taking into account point 3 below, you need to create a series of interim deadlines by which you will have completed identifiable sections of your manuscript.
You may well have to adjust your dates along the way and that is absolutely fine. At least you will have an on-going sense of your progress overall so that you can make sure you are on track ultimately to meet your final deadline.
- Schedule a break at the end of the process to read your completed draft through with fresh eyes.
Ideally you will have a few weeks before the final deadline to take a break after finishing your manuscript before reading it through again and making final adjustments.
Allow for this right at the start as it is a very important stage in the creative writing process.
Having some time away from your work and focusing on other tasks gives your unconscious mind the space it needs to sort through all of the ideas you have expressed on the page.
When you return to your manuscript for the last read through, your fresh perspective will enable you to see gaps or inconsistencies which you might have missed before.
- Keep in touch with your editor during the writing process. Even if you are working with an agent, the relationship you have with the editor is an important one and should be nurtured.
When I was working in-house, I used to deal with the agent on everything relating to the business and financial matters, and with the author directly on everything relating to the content of the book.
During the writing process, for example, you may discover new ideas or even a whole new direction that your book could go in which you hadn’t thought of before.
In such a situation, it would be wise to check in with your editor first to make sure that they are happy with the new possibilities that have arisen. They will be expecting to receive the manuscript you outlined in your proposal so you need to keep them informed of any major amendments you want to make along the way.
- Respect the deadline. I am sure that you appreciate how important deadlines are in the publishing process but I would just like to underline the point for you here.
Authors who submit their work on time gain a reputation for being reliable and professional which encourages the publisher to feel positive about working with you again on future projects.
Usually, the whole publishing schedule is based on when you are due to deliver your manuscript and publishers take an extremely dim view of any major delays.
Having said that, if circumstances beyond your control do delay your progress unavoidably, you should let your editor know as soon as possible and they will advise you according to your individual situation.
As always, my final recommendation is for you to enjoy the journey, so do give yourself enough time to complete your manuscript in a way that is going to be a rewarding experience rather than a stressful one!
What are your experiences of completing major pieces of writing? Feel free to share them below …
© Julia McCutchen 2010. All Rights Reserved.
If you want to use this article in your ezine or on your website I’d be happy for you to do so as long as you use the complete article, including the copyright line, and include the following paragraph in its entirety:
Julia McCutchen is the founder & creative director of the International Association of Conscious & Creative Writers (IACCW) where writers discover their authentic voice – on the page and in the world. A former managing director & publisher (Element, Random House), Julia is a successful and intuitive writer’s coach, mentor and professional publishing consultant. She has over 20 years’ experience of publishing and a track record that includes UK no 1 and international bestsellers. Julia is the author of The Writer’s Journey: From Inspiration to Publication and the creator of the How to Write the Ultimate Book Proposal Online Masterclass Course. For a FREE Special Report, Discover Your Authentic Voice – on the page and in the world, visit www.iaccw.com, and for a range of FREE articles, audios and videos for writers visit www.juliamccutchen.com.