Monday 21 November 2016

The Last Post: Completing Your Manuscript

with Dee Scully

The Last Post is traditionally a bugle call signalling the end of the day but over the years it has become better known as a farewell to departed servicemen and women. As writers we have no such farewell for our manuscripts. Often it’s difficult to know just when a manuscript is finished; so how do we know when to call it a day, to stop polishing and submit the work and move on to the next manuscript? What is our Last Post?

Breathless’s own Cassandra Samuels, author of A Scandalous Wager, doesn’t feel she’s ever ready to let go. “I know I always feel I can do more…but eventually you have to look at it and say to yourself [that] you have done the best you can with it and now it is time to let some fresh eyes see it. That’s when I send it to my editor."

Multi-published author Nikki Logan says much the same. “I don’t think you’re ever ‘done’ revising. Polishing. Tweaking. Second-guessing. Angsting. After a few books, you come to realise the signs of over-working—not necessarily in the finished product but in your own processes. If I catch myself spending a whole day on a single scene in the final stages of editing I know I’m going too far. That late in the process I should just be flying through the work, buffing a few rough edges. Not reworking.”

Alli Sinclair, author of Under the Spanish Stars and the May 2017 release, Beneath the Parisian Skies, agrees with Cassandra and Nikki. “I’m a perfectionist. In my eyes, a book is never completely finished. There will always be something I want to change, so I’ve had to learn to let go.” 

Alli suggests using the following three-point checklist:

*Have I done structural and copy edits to the best of my ability?
*Have I given it one last read through to make sure it holds together and there are no dangling thread storylines?
*If I read it again, will I vomit? (This is a very big sign that I have read and reread and revised so much that I just can’t stand the sight of it anymore!)

But what is our Reveille, our Last Post, the one thing to tell us our manuscript is ready to submit for publication? All our authors agreed, our Last Post is tweaking. If you’ve structurally edited your story, revised the copy, and made sure there are no plot-holes, then you’re done. If you tweak much more you run the risk of tweaking your voice right out of the manuscript. So, if you’ve done all the above and are just tweaking, stop and heed your writer’s bugle call. The day is done. Your manuscript is finished. Time to submit and move on.

How do you know when your manuscript is ready to submit?

I love to love:  our servicemen and women.  I have them to thank for my freedom.

I love to laugh:  at my iPhone's autocorrect.  Does it really think I don't know how to spell duck?

I love to learn:  new things about writing.  It helps me grow as a writer and as a human being.

Sadly, this will be Dee's last post for Breathless in the Bush. We have loved having her as part of our team and hope to welcome her back at some time in the future. We're sure all her loyal supporters will miss her as much as we will. We wish you well, Dee, and a heart-felt thank you for all you have done for us. xx


  1. Dee, how sad to see you go. I've loved your posts, and really appreciate your fresh, lovely voice. All the best as we say (sob) goodbye to you!

    As for the last post, tweaking and such... I remember hearing Johnny Farnham saying once that he sometimes looks back at some songs and thinks he wishes in hindsight he'd done this or that to them ... but they were the best he could do *at the time*. We've got to let our babies go even when they're maybe not as perfect as we think they should be. The idea of your voice being tweaked out is horrifying. Time to let go and let them live! Thanks for the good times, Dee.

    1. Thank you Malvina! I'll miss blogging with Breathless and reading your lovely comments.

      John Farnham along with Cassandra, Nikki, & Alli are right...we have to let them go sometime. Best to do it before we write our voice right out of them!

  2. Hi Dee. What a great post! I love Alli's suggestions (especially the 'vomit' bit - lol) and will definitely take them on board. When I get to the stage where I can't bear another read-through I know it's time to finish up. (Mind you, I always come up with some fabulous extra ideas once I've hit Send, but Tweaking can send you mad!)

    1. LOL The 'vomit' moment is tell-tale , isn't it!

  3. Hi Dee, I haven't completed enough manuscripts to know when the right time has come for me to let one go. I simply reach a point where it feel like it's time to finish up a manuscript so I can begin to explore new ideas. Best wishes. I hope you return to us soon.

    1. I can understand finishing up in order to move on Sharon. Sometimes you just HAVE to move on to the next project.

  4. Hi Dee. Thanks for the great post on knowing the right time to let go. Like Marilyn, I will definitely take Alli's suggestions on board to stop that dreaded tweaking that keeps you thinking about the book. There has to come a point where we just have to let go!

    1. Hi, Enisa!
      Yes, at some point we HAVE to let it go. Knowing when has always been a problem for me. I hope Alli, Nikki, & Cassandra's suggestions benefit others as much as they have helped me!

  5. Thank you so much for asking me to be part of your last post, Dee. I adore this blog and love participating. You will be missed but I am sure we will be hearing your news as it happens. :-) I'm glad my suggestions have helped people. It looks like the "vomit" one seems to have appealed!


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