Step 1: Type the End

Monday, March 28, 2022
I understand the temptation. You’re working on a new book manuscript and you want to know what people think of it. So you share the first two or three chapters. 

The people who read it give you feedback. Instead of moving forward, you rewrite these three chapters because now you definitely have three. And then you share them. The people who read them give you feedback so once again you rewrite and share. 

Or you’re half way through writing your novel and it is AMAZING. Really. It is the best thing you’ve ever written. So you decide to start querying it. But writing the query proves to be a challenge because you’re a pantser. You aren’t actually certain how the book is going to end. You know your main character, you know your story problem, but the conclusion of your book? You haven’t found it yet.

Or maybe it’s a website that you’re tempted to create. After all, you need a website for your book. 

Or a cover. You’re planning to indie publish and you need a cover to start marketing your book. 

Merchandise. You’ve seen Peter Reynold’s online store. He has prints. He has books. He even sells onesies for heaven’s sake! Certainly you should start working on some basic merchandise. 

Whatever bright shiny object is tempting you away from your manuscript, before you worry about critiquing or querying, a site or a cover or merchandise, you need to complete your manuscript. 

I’m not saying that it needs to be polished perfection before you share the opening chapters. Or that you need to have it laid out and print ready before you find someone to design your cover. But you do need to know that you can finish the book. 

Go ahead and jot down ideas for your site or show your work to your critique buddies. But the reality is that if you want to publish, either traditionally or indie, in print or online, you have to finish. 

I give my chapters to my critique group as I move along. But I don’t do major rewrites. If my group has big suggestions that mean fixing things in preceding chapters, I add a footnote to the manuscript or I TYPE AN ALL CAPS NOTE IN THE APPROPRIATE SPOT. Yes, I could add a “message” since I’m using Word, but they distract me. Hey! I’m a writer. I can be quirky. 

And you can be quirky too. Write your pitch for your query letter if it will act as a fixed target to aim for as you add words to the page. Do what you need to do to reach the end. 

The ending of your manuscript will help you hone the beginning, it can shape the cover, and really? It’s a huge buzz to key in those final words.  You know that you’ve accomplished something big.


Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of over 30 books for young readers.  To find out more about her writing, visit her site and blog, One Writer's Journey.

The next session of her new course, Pitching, Querying and Submitting Your Work will begin on April 3, 2022).  Coping with rejection is one of the topics she will cover in this course.

Sue is also the instructor for  Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins April 3, 2022) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins April 3, 2022). 


Renee Roberson said...

Sue--Right now I'm procrastinating on getting through the first developmental edit of my NaNoWriMo project. I should have had that done a month ago. I guess you could say I also keep getting tempted away by other bright, shiny, objects! And the fact that I've decided to reconfigure the family tree in my story. I won't let myself do that yet, though, I'll get through the first draft instead and then go back to my post-it note wall.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Isn't it amazing the variety of things that we find to do instead of laying down words? But you'll get it done. I know you will!

Cathy C. Hall said...

Oh, yes--ugh. I've fallen to the first chapter revisions that go on and on. Mostly because in a manuscript critique, it's the first chapter or first 25 pages that are critiqued and I think, "Well, I HAVE to get this right before I can continue."

Turns out I don't have to have it all nice and perfect; I just have to have a completed manuscript. And though I probably will rewrite that first chapter after a critique, it's most likely the least of my problems! :-)

Great advice, Sue!

Angela Mackintosh said...

At the beginning of the year I said I wasn't going to work on either memoir this year, and instead work on essays because they're quicker to finish and I need the publication boost. But I'm kinda jonesing to work on my memoir again since I'll be attending the Heart of Memoir workshop in April. I fell into the three-chapter trap you talked about in the beginning of your post, and also the shiny object syndrome, and then gave up on my memoir because I felt like I'd never finish. Ugh! At least I'm writing essays and finishing those, so I'm happy about that. Maybe we should do a post on realizing when to walk away from a book-length project? I'm on the fence. You know, I just had a thought... I wonder if I should write the end chapter first when I jump back into it? Maybe that would help. Anyway, great post, Sue! :)

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

I've heard editors comment on disappointing it is to love the beginning of a book and then watch the rest of it slowly fall apart. It is so tempting to focus on just the first several chapters.

A post on when to walk away from a book-length project? That would be a great topic.

Knowing how tough your subject matter is, I think it would be a great idea to write the last chapter. It would be something of a victory dance or the light of hope at the end of the project. Does that make sense?

Angela Mackintosh said...

Sure! Writing the last chapter might inspire clarity of the entire piece, but either way, it's an interesting exercise. Can you imagine writing a memoir in reverse order? I know there are some novels that use the structure. Just for fun, I might try writing a shorter piece or essay in reverse chronology, a countdown of sorts.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Check out this article -

They discuss drafting a piece in chronological order and then shifting various scenes to increase the tension.

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