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What to Do with All the Unfinished Manuscripts?


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On our Facebook page, I recently asked how many unfinished manuscripts our community had on their computers. We received many different responses from Naomi Blackburn writing, "I have 4 in various stages from concept to first edits. All will be finished," to Sophie Giroir putting the laughing while crying emoji and writing "easier to count the folders."  

It's much easier for me to ask that question than to answer it myself. My word of the year for 2021 is FINISH, and so far, it hasn't been going so well...but that's all about to change--I'll save that for a different post.

What I wanted to talk about today was reasons why unfinished manuscripts exist in a writer's world and what you could do (or not) about them.

1. Some unfinished manuscripts are not meant to be finished. Some of my early picture book drafts or half-finished novels are just not meant to be completed. I don't think any of these are a waste of time, and maybe some day one or two of them will turn into something more--now that I know more about writing and marketing and my audience than I did when I started. But you can probably point to at least one manuscript that's in draft form on your computer or in a notebook in your desk drawer, and it doesn't need to be finished. It was written for a certain reason at that time, and it's served its purpose. 

Tell yourself that's okay! It's all part of the learning process, and that's true.

2. Find a writing partner or critique group. Sometimes, what you need is a writing partner or critique group to help you finish the manuscript. Basically, a writing partner or critique group can keep you accountable and keep you writing. Some members of my critique group meet online a few days a week and write together. I know some people are in a group that is strictly accountability--so there's no critiques--just encouraging each other to stick to your goals.  

3. Find a writing class or coach. One of our Facebook followers said she hired a coach to help her finish some manuscripts. That's definitely something a coach can do. They can help you figure out what is blocking you from finishing and set goals to complete what you want. A writing class with regular assignments can also help. The class I teach for WOW! about writing a novel with a writing coach is designed so that writers are turning in a section of their novels for critique every week. Many writers like the design of the class because it makes them work on their novels on a regular schedule every week.

4. Get a routine. No matter if you have a class or an accountability partner or a writing coach, the biggest thing about finishing manuscripts is having a routine where you write on a consistent basis. Your routine does not have to look like anyone else's! But if you have a routine, this will help you finish manuscripts that you want to finish. 

So what about you? Do you have unfinished manuscripts on your computer? Do you plan to finish them? And how will do you this?

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Margo L. Dill is a writing coach, teacher, and author living in St. Louis, MO. Sign up for her Writing a Novel with a Writing Coach class which starts on September 3. Find out more details here. Read about Margo here. 


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