I finished a novel yesterday. Or did I? When do I declare it’s done? When I’ve completed the final chapter of the first draft? The final chapter of the last draft? (What the heck is a last draft, anyway?!) When I feel ready to send it to my agent? Bingo. I’ve decided on the latter, though I feel like celebrating at each juncture of the former.
Anyway, “finishing” a novel can be a long process. Since I’ve just completed the process, here’s some insight into what it involves for me.
First, I have to be relatively happy with it, and have completed the first draft of the final chapter. (By then, most of the other chapters have been reworked many times already.) So I’m relatively happy with the project, but am not yet ready to send it anywhere.
What remains at this point is to ensure that the final chapter(s) “tie up loose ends.”
Now, is THAT ever an involved process!
First, I read through the entire manuscript marking it in the margins with the following codes: FS, MYS, TL, TH and CH. You’ll never guess them, so here goes: foreshadowing, a mysterythat needs revealing by the end, a timelineitem, a word in need of a thesaurus(as in, there’s probably a better word), and something I may want to change (as in, the backpack should be orange, not blue, or I don’t really want the main character to blurt something out that resolves a mystery in that particular chapter.)
Then I create a little table of where these things are located: for instance, there are some sentences that were meant to serve as foreshadowings on pages 3, 12, 36, etc. And there are mysteries I purposely introduced and must eventually resolve on pages… (Where they are resolved, I mark the page number on those, too.)
Mystery item in my latest novel: Why is character X suspiciously happy that character Y is going on the trip? As revealed in Chapter 19, because character Z (her boss) told character X to get  him on the trip, and as resolved in Chapter 20, because they wanted to do such-and-such to him. (No spoiler here, sorry.)
I also need a blank piece of paper and perhaps a calculator to figure out whether, when someone says, “My doctor’s appointment is on Tuesday,” I don’t say two pages later (when it’s Saturday), that the doctor’s appointment was two days prior. Nor do I say it’s someone’s birthday in a month, and somewhere else a timeline element reveals it was actually in two months. It’s very easy to have timelines not add up, so anywhere at all there’s a time element, I mark TL in the margin, then go through and make sure they all jive with each other.
As for the thesaurus, putting a word in brackets (and/or a TH in the margin) allows me to keep writing, knowing I’ll go back to it later and explore other options. I find there are certain words I tend to overuse (like glance), and I’d rather figure out the synonyms and use a wider range of words for what I’m saying BEFORE my editor points out that I need to do so.
Now, what I completed yesterday is a draft ready for my canyoneering consultants (since the book is on canyoneering, the sport involving people rappelling down waterfalls and navigating canyon systems). After I incorporate their suggestions/corrections, it goes to my teen editor, who keeps a sharp eye on teen dialogue and other aspects. When I’ve incorporated his feedback, it goes to my agent, who sends it to my publisher, who hopefully says, “Love it!”
Stay tuned on that front!

P.S. Right before I finish a manuscript, all else in my life gets put on hold, and quite often my back goes out from too much work. I’m like a horse-to-the-barn; you can’t slow me down. Hence, the lack of blogs recently! 🙂