The End as a Beginning

The endEven as I type the glorious words “the end” at the bottom of the page, I know it’s actually just the beginning.

Here are the steps I take when beginning a manuscript revision that can only start when I think I’m finished.

Recognize I’m not done yet.

Sure, I’ve said it was the end, but for the author on a first draft it never is.

The first draft is where I get the story down, in all it’s messy, sprawling brilliance.

Some of the writing is so beautiful I could weep.

A lot of it isn’t.

But at least I’ve got a place to start.

Planning the rewrite.

You cannot begin to rewrite until you know what’s in the manuscript, so I start by running a word census on my manuscript.

Using a Word macro my husband wrote for me, I look at the 25 or so most used words, paying close attention to those I typically overuse like “that, just, back, go,” and so forth.

You probably know which words you tend to overuse.

I then examine all the sentences in which those words appear and frequently rewrite them.

I pay close attention to the verb “was” and beef up sentences with a different verb.

This often takes a couple days on a lengthy manuscript.

Of course I run spellcheck–often.

Printing the entire manuscript.end

It’s important to get away from the computer screen–to see the manuscript differently and also to rest your eyes and fingers.

There’s something about using your hands to read that activates other corners of the brain and enables you to catch things you might have missed on the computer screen.

As a good ecologist, I bristled at using up all that paper, so I use the backside of an old manuscript I’ve already read.

(As long as the page numbers are in a different font–say bold on the second manuscript–I never get confused).

I read it on paper with my pencil in hand and scribble, write in the margins, cut out sentences, rearrange sentences, reformat paragraphs, and generally make a mess of the whole thing.

It’s so satisfying.

Input the changes

This often takes longer than I expect and yet moving between paper and pencil to computer screen also engages parts of the brain that were lolling around before and not paying attention.

I can see things I missed on the screen AND on the paper when I’m moving between them.

So I make corrections and the writing improves.



Read it in ebook format

I then read the entire manuscript in ebook format on my Ipad.

There’s something so gratifying about reading my words in what appears to be a book (indeed, it is an ebook).

I read with a notebook and pen at my side. When I see something that needs to be changed, I scribble a few words on the page, then move on.

I can locate the problems sentences by  activating the “find” feature when I return to my Word document.

The “problem” notes fill a lot of pages–because my eyes tend to skim over the mistakes on a computer screen–which is why I read the manuscript in a different format!

Or, as in the photo, I read it in the ebook with my laptop on my lap and make the corrections immediately.

Not done yet

When I get the manuscript to a point that feels close to done, I ask a few friends to read it.

My ever-loving-patient-saintly-hero of a patron of the arts gets the first chance.

I have a young assistant with a degree in English who has been reading all along and said yesterday as she finished marking up chapter 18, “I can hardly wait until you’re done and I can get a feel for the entire thing.”


Give it time

It takes a while to edit and clean up a manuscript. I’ve just finished one and it’s not due for three and a half months.

That gives me plenty of time to improve it, but in this case, I’m also going to need those months to organize other items needed for a nonfiction book.

In the meantime, I’ll be keeping my (mechanical) pencil sharpened!

What do you do when you after you type “the end” on your manuscript?

Other than celebrate, of course!


6 tips for manuscript help after typing “the end.” Click to Tweet

What to do after you type “the end.” Click to Tweet

Finished writing and now I’m editing: 6 tips how. Click to Tweet

Interested in Oswald and Biddy Chambers? I’ll be telling stories about the amazing ways God led me through the writing of two books about them, starting in my January newsletter–one a month for 2017, free.

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  1. When I type “The End” I switch to new file, and start a new book. Let the first one rest a bit.

    Philosophically, I think God made the world round so that we might see a new horizon beckoning from each achieved destination.

    • Michelle Ule

       /  January 3, 2017

      Ah, as a scientist, you’re experienced in letting go. Some of us are not so confident in our abilities! 🙂

  2. This was interesting – I love hearing about how others go through the writing process. I’m with you – I have to have a paper copy at some point to make slashes/circles/notes on


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