What I Learned Finishing a Manuscript (That Might Never See The Light of Day)


OK, this might seem a lot like a public way for me to yell to the rooftops “I finished my manuscript today – right this very minute!” And it is. I have just finished a manuscript that I started in NaNoWriMo November 1st, 2010. I ‘finished’ it on November 30th at 50,000 words (and won NaNoWriMo, just saying) and in January this year, decided to brush it up with the FB group Write a Book With Al…(a different Al). By which I mean edit it and find an actual ending, because after a month of writing 1,667 words a day, once you hit 50,000 you may well want to just write ‘and they lived happily ever after. The End’. I certainly did.

Today, it is officially finished with an actual ending…and it sits at 70,177 words. It’s finished…not polished, but definitely finished. And now I can put it away and start working on the things I’ve learned during this long and slightly torturous (but necessary) project, for example:

Short stories

Short stories are my first love – smaller projects better suited to my attention span. There was a time around the last 15% of the 70,177 word manuscript, when I was sick to the back teeth of it – I turned to Twitter and was advised by lovely authors, such as Jane Rawson, to put the manuscript away for a while and work on something else. That something else was a short story that has since been polished and sent off into the wild blue yonder. I liked it, for the distraction it gave me and the glimpse into a different world of characters. Also, it sowed the seeds for several others that I’m keen to get started on.


I write content in my working life, but I only have two dedicated days to write at home and sometimes those two days have to be dedicated to getting a kid to the orthodontist and having a panic attack in the sun. I always have a notebook handy to jot stuff down, but sometimes I just don’t get a chance. All the great writers say you have to write every day. That’s very likely true, but if you don’t, you should not beat yourself up about it….just as long as you…

Stick At It!

I’m a big procrastinator (hello, no blog post since March), I live for excuses to not do something and then beat myself up about it. Catherine Deveney’s Gunnas class called me on this so bad! Stickability is the biggest lesson I think I learned from this manuscript. Yes, I got sick of it; yes, I had other more interesting ideas to pursue; yes, it had inadvertently become a year long project stretched over 6 years, and yes I was realistic that it probably isn’t really something to publish…but it needed to be finished…simply to teach me to finish something.


I don’t like to tell friends what I’m working on – it’s too much imaginary pressure. They might have to ask me ‘how’s the book going?’ or ‘what’s it about again?’ or ‘how long is it?’. And then I will have to avoid seeing them and my life as a hermit will become complete. Having very nice people around who I’ve never met except on a writers forum, or on Twitter or on Al Tait’s FB page is a good way to get advice, support – or have a blurt to or crow proudly at. I’m working up to finding a Writer’s Group in a room with real people, but that’s another phobia for another day.

Reading, Constantly and Critically

The more I read the better I write. Reading critically helps me see the technical weaknesses in my own writing and it shows me solutions to them in ways I may never have picked up from external feedback.

Write for Yourself

This project was not to be published, it was to do it, to see if I could. I need to have a creative project on the go or I get a little loopy. I need to have some writing on the go or I get caught up in my head too much. Some of my writing is very much for public digestion, some of it isn’t. It’s a compulsion, is what it is.

Inspiration Rocks!

I cannot tell you how important inspiration is. Before going to Dev’s Gunnas Masterclass, I’d decided to stop writing, that it wasn’t for me, that it had no purpose in my life other than as torture. She immediately turned me right around on that issue. Al and Val’s podcast accompanies me for my morning walk on writing days, and gives me something to think about when I settle in for the day at my laptop. Dev’s class inspired me to keep something going that was integral to my sanity and asked me “Why not?” when I was only asking “Why?”, and the ‘So You Want To Be a Writer’ podcast, inspires me with writerly news, advice and chats with writers about their various projects and processes.

So, yah. That was a long-winded way for me to tell you I wrote a flipping 70,177 word manuscript. Also, guess what? I wrote a 70,177 word manuscript. The world is my flipping oyster, I tell you!

I’m going to coffee and hammock now, to celebrate.



About Alyson

I am a 45+ chick. I live in the country with 3 almost (apparently) adult children teenagers, 1 husband and many animals. Here's the thing: The black dog also hangs with me occasionally and, thank the baby cheeses, life is not perfect. That's OK, because I work hard to be a glass half-full person and I can't lie! I write to help my head, heart and humor...and I tell myself 'I've got this!'


  1. Oh happy day!! Wot a flippin’ fabulous thing to have done.
    Fair to say I want to read it one day!!

  2. Hey well done, that is great news. You yell from the rooftops as much as you want! Go you!

  3. You go girl. Awesome effort. Think I need to join that gonna group. One day I’m gonna finish something.
    Congratulations πŸ’•

  4. You go you good thing! All the ideas that float in and through and out of my conscious everyday! You inspire me Ali! Don’t change except for being so hard on yourself! That is one amazing achievement! Love you immensely xx

  5. Congrats Al, great effort!! Xx

  6. hello alyson its dennis the vizsla dog hay kongratchoolayshuns riting a hole entire manyooskript is not an eezy thing to do!!! ok bye

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