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You’ve finished your manuscript. What next?

To give your work the greatest chance of success, whether you want to approach an agent or publisher, or you want to self publish, you need to develop your manuscript to the highest possible standard. It is important to revise your work as much as you can before you offer it another reader for feedback. And it is immensely helpful to get feedback on your work from trusted readers and professional assessors or editors who can bring fresh eyes to the work and point out the strengths and weaknesses in the manuscript, guiding you through the next draft. Then you revise again. There is a repeated pattern here: revision – feedback – more revision – more feedback. Eventually you will send your work out, and then perhaps it requires still more revision before it is accepted for publication. This is the development phase, from the end of the first draft through to publication, or to the manuscript’s final resting place, which may or may not be a bookshelf.

The development phase can be challenging and frustrating but also incredibly rewarding. It is likely to take longer than you thought. Many years. It is not uncommon for a first novel to take seven years from inception to publication. I don’t say this to put you off (I heard the groans), but to prepare you for the realities of the development phase. If you are committed to becoming a writer, you can’t avoid it. And it is, ultimately a voyage of discovery.

As a developmental editor I am privileged to work with writers on this voyage, helping them understand their own work and how they can take it to the next level. But over the years I have been struck by how many writers are ill-prepared for the long haul, even those who end up achieving their writing goals. It got me thinking. Perhaps if writers had a greater understanding of how to navigate the rough seas and smooth sailing, and how to sustain themselves through the unexpected setbacks when they feel adrift or are blown off course, it would make the voyage not only easier, but more satisfying, and it would ultimately make them better writers.

If you identify with being in the development phase, I invite you to drop anchor for a day, step away from the desk and explore concepts, strategies and tools to help you reach your destination. Join me in the workshop Surviving the Development Phase to delve into separating yourself from your work, seeking and managing feedback, surviving rejection, recharging your batteries, building resilience as a writer, and answering that perennial question – when am I done? Life vests will be at the ready.

LAUREL COHN is a developmental book editor passionate about communication and the power of stories in our lives. She has been helping writers prepare their work for publication since the mid 1980s, and is a popular workshop presenter. She has a PhD in literary and cultural studies.

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