When the Finishing Line Keeps Moving

When the Finishing Line Keeps Moving
March 14, 2016 No Comments » For Authors, Writing Advice Nancy E Miller

Everyone knows the myth of Sisyphus, that rapscallion that upset the Greek gods and ended up pushing a boulder up a hill each day, to just see it roll back down into the valley each night.  It translates out as the hopeless, never-ending, search for release and finding none…at least that is my take on it.

untitled        We writers don’t need Greek gods to face our own hills.  There is the infamous writer’s block that tears at the souls of novice and experienced authors alike.  The infamous blank white page. Then there are the characters who simply refuse to conform to the writer’s will.  Don’t laugh.  If you have never had a character pull an about face and go where you never planned, then consider yourself fortunate.

Lately, I have heard from several writers who are either working on their first draft or have a manuscript in editing.  They basically were asking DOES THIS EVER END? Now you can laugh, I know you’ve been there.


One writer was talking about finishing her first draft. It seemed as though each time she thought she was nearing the end, the finish line moved. There are several possible causes. One, the author is pantsing (writing by the seat of their pants) the story without an outline and hasn’t found a way to tie it up.  To that I would suggest going back and creating an outline from what you have written as a map to a possible ending.  Two, the author’s story is lacking a definitive plot line with crisis/dramatic points thus the story goes on and on.  Again, outlining may help by identifying what is important and what is just pointless narrative.  And three, maybe the author should consider if the material is enough, and should be split in two or three volumes, although this is probably not the case.


Another writer was in the editing mode and wondered how many times you have to edit a manuscript before you can call it done.  Well, let’s see.  When I wrote CRYSTAL UNICORNS, I recall editing several times over a period of years. (I kept putting it away.) With SHARK BAIT, I remember a first general read through for continuity and plot.  A second edit for grammar and spelling, and I am not talking about using the useless checker on Word.  You simply have to read each and every word to make sure they are right…and you will still miss some.  Then there is the alpha readers and what they find in the way of storyline.  Edit again.  Then you send it to an editor. PLEASE send it to at least a line editor. I didn’t on the first book and I regret it.  Edit again.  How many are we up to? Four. Minimum. With SHARK BAIT, I edited until I simply had to say STOP!  It is out looking for an agent now.  Once it finds one, another edit. Then the publisher’s editor. Another edit.  It will end when the book goes to print…oh, wait…you have to edit the writer’s proof to make sure the printing didn’t foul up the print.


                There is one more time I can think of when you ask the question.  When you start submitting your precious life blood to agents and/or publishers.  It’s where I am now.  Waiting. And more waiting. And it JUST STARTED.  Eight to twelve weeks response time and no response if you didn’t catch their eye.  I could turn 60 before I hear back from just a few agents.  This is why we do multiple submissions.  I’m getting my list ready of other agents…just in case.

In the meantime, I’m editing my non-fiction and starting my next romantic suspense novel.  If you can think of other scenarios or if there is a subject you would like to see covered, just let me know.


Nancy E Miller Nancy E. Miller, romantic suspense author of Shark Bait and Crystal Unicorns, lives near St. Louis with her husband and three dogs, pygmy goats, chickens and a cranky rooster named Ketchup. Her degree is in Psychology and Sociology. She has worked in education and mental health as a case manager and crisis counselor.

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