How to . . . Complete a Manuscript

Christine Trent PortraitGuest blogger Christine Trent landed a two-book deal with Kensington Books. Her debut novel, The Queen’s Dollmaker, a historical with strong romantic elements, is due to be released in January 2010. I interviewed Christine September 3, 2008. Three weeks later, she sold, and on October 31, 2008 she shared her exciting story of receiving The Call.

Christine has learned a great deal as she’s traveled the path to publication, and I’ve invited her to pass on some of her tips to you. Join us as we explore four topics so important to those eager to receive a contract offer:

April 13: How to . . . Complete a Manuscript

April 16: How to . . .  Submit a Query Letter

April 20: How to . . . Interpret a Rejection Letter

April 23: How to . . . Get from First Sale to Publication Wisely

Be sure to follow the comment trail, where Christine will stop by to respond to your questions. As usual, there’s a drawing. Find out about my biggest giveaway yet at the end of the post.

And now, here’s Christine  . . .

A Writer’s Tool Kit: Part One

How to . . . Complete a Manuscript

by Christine Trent

“I have fought the good fight . . .”
Finishing a manuscript means discipline!

Do you find it a great effort to just sit down and get some plain ol’ writing done each day? Do you struggle with both motivation and competing distractions? Do any or all of the following vie for your attention?

•    Job
•    Kids
•    Spouse
•    Friends
•    Housework
•    School
•    Volunteer time
•    Blogs 🙂
•    E-mail
•    Maintaining your web site
•    Facebook/social networking sites
•    Online classes
•    Conferences

…the list of distractions goes on and on. And believe me, published authors suffer from distractions just as much as unpublished ones.

What’s a writer to do?

Lots of writers have tips and tricks they’ve employed to keep them on track. Today I’m going to present to you what works for me personally, as opposed to presenting lots of different opinions. I find there are two simple activities that keep me on track.

Activity 1:  Find an Accountability Partner

Lots of support groups encourage their members to find an accountability partner:  someone who will help them stay on the straight path. In my case, my husband is my accountability partner. At the end of each day he asks a series of questions.

How many words did you get done?

What got in the way?

What can you do tomorrow to get back on track?

I must admit, sometimes I dread those conversations, but just knowing I’m going to have the discussion keeps me motivated.

What qualities should you look for in an accountability partner?

Cares About You – Your partner should be interested in your success. It might be another writer, a friend, your spouse, or maybe even your mother, but that person should be one of your strongest champions.

Tough Love – Your partner should be willing to – kindly! – give you some verbal chastising if you’re outside in the garden watching the bird feeder instead of pounding away at the keyboard during your writing time.

What about online writing challenge groups?

I belong to one of these and really love the encouragement I get from the other writers on it. However, it’s a bit different from an accountability partner. My challenge group is more like a cheerleading squad. We all support one another and egg each other on, but there is no rebuke for not accomplishing goals. Consider having both an accountability partner and a writing challenge group if you needs lots of motivation.

Activity 2:  Keep a Spreadsheet to Track Your Progress

When I begin a manuscript, I create a spreadsheet that includes a daily tally of how many words I write and how many words I should have written. For example, I estimate my current manuscript, which I started last December, to be 120,000 words, and I want to finish in June. That means I need to complete 5,000 words per week consistently through June. How am I doing? Well, my accountability partner may need to nudge me a little bit harder!

This spreadsheet serves several purposes:

1.  I can track day-to-day how well I’m doing and how many words I need to complete in a given week to catch up to my goal.

2.  By breaking the words completed on a daily basis, I can see what my better writing days are.  For example, Thursdays are dreadful for me, but I get gobs of writing done on Saturdays and Mondays for some reason.

3.  I can easily adjust my goals if necessary with just a couple of keystrokes in the spreadsheet.

4.  It’s a visual record of how well I’m doing overall.

The most important thing to remember if you are serious about your writing career is this:  whether you’re published or not, writing is a business. Much as we prefer to let the muse overcome us or feel like we can only write once every other distraction in our lives is addressed, the reality is that we need to incorporate discipline into our writing lives. We must train for the race if we expect to go the distance.

What’s your number one method for staying on track with your writing?


Leave a Comment for Your Chance to Win

I have a plethora of prizes to give away while Christine’s posts are active. This time I’m keeping the prizes a secret. Yes, each winner will receive a package with a minimum of three mystery items that range from note cards to necklaces or memo pads to magnets.

I’ll choose 11 winners from those who leave a comment for Christine between April 13 and 23, one each day, and will post the winners’ names as they are drawn.

To be entered in the drawing, please include an email address when prompted, which I don’t share. Each comment counts as an entry, and you may enter as many times as you’d like.

Winners: #1 Leslie Carroll, #2 Leigh, #3 Jessica, #4 Eileen Astels, #5 Karen Fraga, #6 Sherrinda, #7 Margay

You could also win a First Sale Scrapbook!

If you’d like to have a chance at winning a First Sale Scrapbook created by your blog hostess, Keli Gwyn, leave a comment on any post between now and April 30. Make sure to include your name and email address when prompted if you want to be entered in the drawing. (Your information will not be shared.) Click red link above to see samples of covers and pages.

On May 1, Keli will choose one person who will have her choice of five covers on an 8×8 inch, twenty-page scrapbook in which s/he can document that long-awaited first sale. The pages will cover various milestones including The Call, signing the contract, receiving the first advance payment and holding your “firstborn” in your hands.

(No scrapbooking skills required. You just add your photos and journaling.)

Learn More About Christine

Visit her Web site:


Learn More About Her Debut Novel

The Queen’s Dollmaker
Coming January 2010 from Kensington Books

“An exuberant, sparkling debut. Beguiling details of doll making are a joy in this rags-to-riches romp. Brims with Dickensian gusto.”
–Barbara Kyle, author of The Queen’s Lady and The King’s Daughter

A young woman, struggling to expand her London dollmaking trade, finds a surprising customer in Queen Marie Antoinette, an avid doll collector herself.  This seemingly innocent exchange puts Claudette’s life in danger when she is lured to Paris under false pretenses.  Money and jewels are being smuggled in dolls destined for the Queen, and have now been discovered by the fledgling revolutionary French government.  Her only hope for escaping the guillotine is a man she pledged not to love, who has no idea she has even been imprisoned…


About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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23 Responses to How to . . . Complete a Manuscript

  1. Keli Gwyn says:

    Thanks for your great article, Christine. You’ve touched on some important points.

    How do I keep on track with my writing? I have three ways:

    1. My husband and daughter ask me how I’m doing and encourage me to keep on writing.

    2. I have a critique partner with whom I share my progress on a regular basis. She, too, encourages me to write.

    3. I belong to an online goal-setting group and report my writing activity on a weekly basis.

    I realize in looking at this list that none of these really fulfill the need for an accountability partner, but I feel certain my cp would be willing to fill that role. I just never thought to ask before.

    I also realize how helpful a writing log would be and plan to start using one right away. One writer in my goal group does, and she seems to produce consistently.

    Thanks for the great ideas.

  2. Sherrinda says:

    Great advice! I don’t have someone asking me everyday for my word count and maybe I should! (Though working full time and having kids activities at night makes for non-productive days at the keyboard. I do what I can.)

    I love the idea of a spread sheet and finding out what days are better days for my writing. It would help in focusing on those certain days and not feel so guilty about the others!

    Thanks for sharing. Great post!

  3. Margay says:

    Christine, I envy people who are so organized because I am not. I try, but I am easily overwhelmed by the burdens of Multiple Sclerosis and the challenges of raising a child with multiple issues such as bipolar disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome. Add to that the fact that we just found out she needs surgery to correct a terrible curvature in her spine and planning for my older daughter’s graduation and college entry, and well, I think you get the picture. If I only had the time to get organized…


  4. Jessica says:

    Hmmm, great article! Congrats on your sale too. 🙂
    I definitely don’t always stay on track, but most of the time just having in my head the word count I want to get done each day helps. It nags me until I do it. Then I love my little word counter and I have a writing friend who shares her word count and cheers me on in mine.

  5. Christine, I especially appreciate that you consider writing, whether published or not, to be a business. So true. If we don’t treat it as such, we’ll never become published.

    My hubby tends to check up on my progress regularly, too, but now perhaps I should actually hire him to pose those questions daily.

    I’m looking forward to this series and learning lots.

    Congratulations on your sales, Christine!!!

  6. Christine Trent says:

    Dear Keli,
    Thanks for having me on your blog for an entire series (wow!).

    I think using your CP as a potential accountability partner is a great idea. You could serve the same role for her, as well.


  7. Christine Trent says:

    Sherrinda, best of luck with your writing goals! I’m glad this information may have been useful. Thank you for stopping by.


  8. Christine Trent says:

    Margay, I have an old school friend who has M.S., so I understand completely about the ups and downs of it and how it can interfere with your writing. I admire your doggedness and determination to write, despite the many challenges you have. Blessings to you.


  9. Christine Trent says:


    I hear you. I do also walk around with my overall word count in my head. Accompanying that thought is the one that says, “And the word count where I *should* be today is…” LOL

    I love the word counter, too. Unfortunately, I probably look at it too much!

    Happy writing,

  10. Christine Trent says:


    I really do firmly believe that you have to treat it as a business, else it will be difficult to get beyond the “hobby” side of it. But disciplining yourself to write every day takes lots of training. I’ve been working on it since January 1, and I still have a long way to go. But I do hope to “fight the good fight.”


  11. Margay says:

    Thank you. Yeah, sometimes, you just have to be more persistent than the symptoms that plague, but it does mess with your life. Whenever I have good days and try to do things I’ve been putting off, I usually over-do and end up lying flat on my back, looking up at the ceiling and wondering how I got there! Perhaps the next time I feel that spurt, I should work on trying to become more organized. Hhmm, I think maybe I should print this post for that occasion.

  12. C.J. Redwine says:

    Great post. I’m looking forward to the series. I make myself reach my writing goals by sharing them with my CPs, committing to weekly progress on a loop of writers with similar goals, and making it a sort of competition with myself (how many words can I write by noon?).

  13. Christine Trent says:

    CJ, I’ve set those kinds of goals for myself as well. Some work out better than others! Believe it or not, one of my better self-imposed goals is to not let myself out of the chair until I’ve completed, say, 1,000 words. As in, “Trent, you must sit here and not get up no matter how long it takes.” Sometimes I can way exceed my goal. Sometimes I give up and visit the refrigerator. LOL

    Happy Writing!

  14. Anne Barton says:

    Hi Christine–

    I like your tips for staying on track. I set weekly goals because, while I might not get a block of writing time on any given day, I know I can find some time throughout the course of a week.

    Like Keli and C.J., I belong to an on-line goals group that’s very motivating. I find myself staying up late at nights in order to be able to report adequate progress on recap day.

    I enjoyed meeting you at the last WRW meeting, and I’m looking forward to the rest of your articles! 🙂


  15. Well, Miss Accountability Partner — this is incredibly helpful (not to mention motivating) information. Of course, it would take me as long to learn Excel and create a spreadsheet as it would to write the entire novel.

    I definitely agree that writing is a business, even if you’re not making money at it right away. If you don’t take yourself seriously, how can you expect your family and friends to understand how time consuming a career it is, particularly when you’re writing historicals and need to devote endless hours to research as well.

  16. Christine Trent says:


    I enjoyed meeting you last month as well. Sounds like a lot of writers get inspiration from their online goal groups. I’m glad it works so well for you!

    Thanks for stopping by.


  17. Christine Trent says:


    Note to self: send Leslie to an Excel class!

    I agree that it can be hard to stay focused on actual word count when writing historicals, since there is *so* much time to be spent in research. The research tends to overwhelm the actual writing. My husband constantly threatens to put “parental controls” on my computer to keep me off the Internt. Now that’s accountability for you!


  18. Leigh says:

    Thanks for the reminders, Christine. Life knocks my writing off track more than I’d like, but I’m learning to be a ‘write anywhere’ girl — envelopes, sticky notes, napkins … they’re all fair game. It might only be 100 words, but it adds up when you put enough of those little bits together. 🙂

    No official accountability partners, though I do have 2 CPs who might be able to slide into that role. Something to think about.

    Congrats on the upcoming releases! Sounds like they’ll be interesting.

  19. Christine Trent says:

    Thanks, Leigh. I admire your ability to write anywhere. Rarely can I do that. Sometimes I think I need “perfect” circumstances in which to write…meaning after all of my other chores in life are done. Unfortunately, those chores are NEVER done. Hence why I need a spreadsheet staring me in the face to remind me of what really needs to get done!

    I appreciate your visit and comments.


  20. Keli Gwyn says:

    Nice to see so many dropping by to take advantage of Christine’s excellent advice.

    I held the first of the drawings, and Leslie Carroll is the winner. Congrats, Leslie. I’ll be in touch.

  21. Christine Trent says:

    Yay Leslie!

  22. Jessica says:

    LOL Christine!
    I look at mine every single day, several times. We’re addicts, I think. 🙂

    Congrats Leslie!

  23. Keli Gwyn says:

    Thanks again to everyone who stopped by.

    I’ve chosen two more of the drawing winners: Leigh and Jessica. Congrats, ladies. I’ll be in touch.

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