Writing a non-fiction book or memoir is a labor of love that demands honesty, research, and dedication. You pour your heart into this manuscript in hopes that it will be as well-received as you envision it. However, as you start getting closer to the end, you may start to wonder: How do I know when my manuscript is finished? The answer lies in a delicate balance of storytelling, authenticity, purpose, and a healthy dose of intuition. In this blog post, we will explore the key signs your non-fiction or memoir manuscript is complete.
Here at Sulit Press, we accept completed manuscripts for consideration, but even that sometimes creates confusion among authors. What does it mean to have a completed manuscript? For us, that doesn’t mean you fire off an email with the unpolished, unedited first draft of your manuscript the moment you stop typing. Generally speaking, before you submit your manuscript to a publisher, you want to make sure it’s gone through a few rounds of high-level review and basic editing to remove most major errors. New York Times best-selling author Chandler Baker says she personally does five rounds of edits before she submits a manuscript to her editor.
Here Is How to Tell If Your Manuscript Is Ready for Submission
You’ve Got the Right Length
This is an essential starting place when you’re coming to the end of your writing process. Readers have expectations about book length, and it depends on your genre. Most non-fiction books average between 50,000 and 80,000 words. Memoirs fall more in line with fiction and average between 60,000 to 100,000 words. This is not to say your manuscript is done just because it falls within the average, but it’s a good starting point. Also, a word of caution: Resist the urge to pad your manuscript if it falls short. Readers’ attention spans have shrunk over the years, and excessive word counts don’t help with engagement.
Your Message Is Clear
Hopefully, before you began writing, you mapped out a clear message or theme. As you’re nearing the end of your writing process, it’s time to take a step back and evaluate whether your book adequately delivers the message. Your readers should easily grasp the central theme without being confused.
You’ve Met Readers’ Expectations
Now, I know you won’t fully know this until your manuscript is actually published, but think about your target audience and what you set out to deliver. Have you fulfilled the promises you made to your readers? Often, these are laid out in your first chapters. Whether it’s sharing knowledge, providing inspiration or simply offering a unique perspective, ensure your manuscript meets the expectations you started with.
You’ve Provided Honest and Heart-Felt Storytelling
This is especially true for memoirs, but even self-help and other types of nonfiction benefit from storytelling and lived experience. Have you been authentic and vulnerable, when it’s called for? Are there enough anecdotes and real-world examples for your self-help book? If the answers are yes, readers are more likely to connect with your story on a deeper level.
You’ve Adequately Covered the Subject Matter
This can be more of a gut-check feeling, but in your heart, do you feel the book still has missing pieces? Is there any area of your manuscript you intuitively know still needs work? If the answers are yes to either of these questions, then you know there is still more work to be done.
You’ve Trimmed the Fat
Yes, it’s possible to edit all the life out of a story, but you do want to make sure you’ve included the most relevant details so that the story doesn’t wander off or include superfluous threads that don’t add to the overall narrative, or theme.
You’ve Completed the Story Arc or Theme
For both memoir and non-fiction, make sure that the journey comes full circle and that any themes or life lessons you set out to explore are adequately addressed. A solid manuscript doesn’t leave unanswered questions and offers readers a sense of closure.
You’ve Done Your Fact-Checking
For non-fiction, factual accuracy is crucial and helps convey your expertise. Verify that all information presented is well-researched and backed up by credible sources, evidence, or research. A good editor will help you compound back matter.
You’re Ready to Share Your Book with the World
Don’t underestimate your feelings about the book. While it’s normal to feel scared or vulnerable as you get closer to completing your manuscript and you contemplate sharing it with others, if you have any nagging feelings of concern, worry or dread, it’s worth exploring why and reviewing your work if necessary. After all, you want your manuscript to reflect your best efforts.
Knowing when your non-fiction or memoir manuscript is complete requires introspection, a critical eye, and a commitment to craft. Trust your instincts, but also be open to constructive criticism, especially when working with editors or beta readers. It’s likely you will never be 100% ready to release your work, but trust your gut, take a deep breath, and get ready to celebrate your achievement.
Need help evaluating your non-fiction or memoir manuscript? Submit your manuscript and we will provide a free evaluation of whether it’s a good fit for publication with Sulit Press.
Need help completing your manuscript? We offer small-group author coaching through our Manuscript Mastermind program. Through a rolling enrollment process, we take care to curate groups of authors who have clear writing goals, are committed to seeing this through, and will bring the most value to their group.