For the next few weeks I’ll go into detail about how to write a manuscript. Your first question is what is the difference between a book and a manuscript? A manuscript is what your story is before it is published. A book is what your manuscript becomes once you actually are published. Not a big difference in description except to professionals. So if you want to be a professional, then you need to start using the terms of a professional.
Let’s talk about the first draft. This is the very beginning of your manuscript. For the first draft, just write. Get it down on paper. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. All of the nitpicky stuff will come later. This is the time to just write.
When I write, I write the first draft for me. That sounds weird but it’s the truth. I add stuff that I know will get cut or suspect will get cut but I enjoy the idea of escaping into the world I’m writing about. So I just write. I don’t worry about the beginning, if it sags in the middle, scene and chapter breaks or even all of the plot twists. Since I don’t like exposition, I almost never add much description about things like setting and stuff. In my mind’s eye, I know what it looks like and just get the plot and characters down on paper.
Now this may not be your style of writing. I am not a plotter. I am a pantser. What, you ask? I write by the seat of my pants, so to speak. I do not sit down and do an outline of the story, craft scene outlines, or outline the entire manuscript from middle to end. I do not even always write my story in complete order as when it is finished. I usually know the main character, who ‘dunit’ (remember I write mysteries) and why and usually the climax. Sometimes that’s it when I start my manuscript. This is what works for me.
If you are truly a new beginner then you need to find out what works for you. So beware of writing books out there that say, ‘this is how you write a book’. (Notice the terms.) There is no one way to write a manuscript. Find what works for you and stick to it.
Back to the first draft. However you do it, do it. Write it. Get it down on paper from some sort of beginning to some sort of end, even if the middle is lacking. Get it down. Do understand that this is a first draft, so don’t fall in love with any thing in this draft. What I mean by that is that you need to realize that almost everything will change from a first draft. Don’t be so much in love with your own words that you can’t cut something. Because coming up in the second draft, that’s what you need to do. Cut and rewrite
But for now enjoy the first draft. Do it for YOU and you alone. Really enjoy the experience of escaping into your own made up world and live in your manuscript. Enjoy. Because all too soon, the second draft will be here.
Angela Abderhalden is the author of the Mel Addison Mystery Series and Acquiring Editor for Seventh Wave Books, LLC