How do I know when my manuscript is done? | Is the first draft of my book ready for editing?

Today I’m going to answer a question that I had from a client and that was, “how do I know when I’m done with the first draft?” There are definitely some authors out there who will spend forever on their first draft. But eventually, you need to say, draft one is done, set it aside for a week, and then go back in to start draft two.

1. Complete each chapter/section in your outline. Unless you decide that some sections are repetitive or can be combined, make sure everything you have to say is in the document. I usually also suggest giving the manuscript a week without going into it and see in that time if anything pops up. Do you have a moment where you think “oh man, I really should include this.” After that week you can go back in and include any of those items. For your pansters out there, you should know in your mind that the story you wanted to tell is done.
2. I would also look to make sure any references to other books/articles or data are cited with a rough bibliography in the back of the text. A complete bibliography is great, but at the very list a rough list of which links/sources go with each chapter is good for this stage.
3. I would also make sure that any end of chapter resources or prompts are included in this manuscript. If you plan to tell people to do some research, make a list of their desired outcomes, etc have those questions and action steps included in the text now.
4. I would recommend that you read through the manuscript once through in its entirety before it is ready for the next step. This way you can catch any duplicate content or areas that are unclear. You’re effectively doing the first self-edit. This is also a great time to catch any abbreviation or spelling inconsistencies (do you capitalize a certain term throughout the first 4 chapters, but then never again? Do you abbreviate items before they are explained to the reader?)

So are you stuck on your first draft? Are you in a self-editing cycle that you can’t seem to break out of? Share below so that we can encourage each other and keep moving our books forward.

Read more in my book, How to Write Your First Novel:

Music from:​ E.R.F.

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