How to Write a Book (2 of 4) – Manuscript Stages 1-3

Issue #107
Blog #20-2019
Section: Writing Tips
Blogger: Joseph Clay

Thinking about writing and publishing a book but don’t know where to start.

ThunderHorse Publishing has put together a series of blogs that will give the person who aspires to be a writer an idea of where to began. This is the second blog in that four part series.

Welcome back. The writing space is ready to go and the research on writing has begun. Now lets get to the stages of a manuscript.

We mentioned in the first blog How to Write a Book (1 of 4) – Getting Started the internet is full of sites that cover how to write your first book.

ThunderHorse Publishing likes the chart shown on the right. We found it on Flickr under the account of Enokson. The chart is simple and easy to follow up to a point.

ThunderHorse Publishing uses a Ten Stage System to get an idea from the writers brain to published book. Our Ten Stages of a Manuscript is almost identical to the chart. ThunderHorse Publishing gets more in depth in the process of Revise and Rewrite as these are critical stages.

This blog will cover Stages 1 through 3 in depth, giving the new writer an insight to what is required.

The 10 Stages of a manuscript

  • Stage 1 – Prepare
  • Stage 2 – Write
  • Stage 3Manuscript Review
  • Stage 4Rewrite
  • Stage 5Edit
  • Stage 6 – Proofread
  • Stage 7Exterior/Interior
  • Stage 8Publish

The next two stages have nothing to do with writing. There is no work involved in these stages, its more of a status for the manuscript. They will be covered in the third blog of this series, Issue #108.

  • Stage 9Holding
  • Stag 10Dead Tale

The other stages of the manuscript can be found in the following blogs:

Now to cover the work involved in each stage.

Photo credit: Author D.L. Fisher

Stage 1 – Prepare: This stage is where the writer comes up with the book idea. Then the research begins to gather information. This information will be used to write a tale that has believable characters and is as close to real life as possible. Stage 1 is where the writer develops an outline, plot structure and characters for the story. A title is given, which may change several times before the book is released.

The key for the writer to remember in the beginning is to write what they want not what is popular but a story they would like to read.

This is also the stage where the writer begins the search for professionals that will be required to help complete future stages. We have listed theses professionals in the order they will be needed along with the stage there services will come in play.

  1. Consultant – Stages 1 and 2. This is someone who has knowledge of the complete process and available to answer questions and lend guidance.
  2. Proofreader/Editor – Stages 3, 5 and 6. This individual is a must and makes a great Consultant. No matter how smart you are…hire a professional. No one can edit and critique their own work. ThunderHorse Publishing recommends that if the writer refuses to follow this advice they stop the writing process now.
  3. Formatter – Stage 7. This is the person the will format your manuscript and covert it to the correct file for publishing in eBook and/or print format.
  4. Graphic Designer – Stage 7. The cover of a book is the first thing a reader sees. The graphic designer will make sure that cover will grab the attention of potential readers.
  5. Illustrator – Stage 7. The writer may choose to have illustrations within the pages of the book so an illustrator will be needed.

Photo credit: Author D.L. Fisher

Stage 2 – Write:  This is the stage where the writer stops aspiring to be a writer, takes the advice of Alan Watts and starts writing.

This stage is self explanatory. Using the outline and plot structure from Stage 1 write the story. Write without fear and worrying about word count and genre. Write with passion.

Once the writer begins this stage the work is then considered a manuscript and a Work In Progress (WIP). Once the writer has completed the tale this stage is complete. The witer now has a First Draft.

The term First Draft can be confusing to some, don’t let it be. The First Draft simply means the draft of the manuscript the professional Proofreader/Editor will see during the manuscript review in Stage 3.

Photo credit: Author D.L. Fisher

The writer is not expected to write a perfect tale on the first pass. That first pass is for getting the idea on paper. From there the writer will revise, edited and revise more.

The writer will began to second guess their choice of becoming an author. Pay no attention to that feeling as doubt and frustration is normal for this stage. Press on and keep writing, revising and repeating.

During this stage the writer must stay focused while remaining relaxed. The thing to remember and the goal of this stage is simple. The writer must take their time as this is not race and quality is the goal!

Once the writer gets to the point of thinking there is nothing left to revise and the story is solid the manuscript magically becomes a First Draft. There is another point in time when the magic happens. That is when the writer can’t figure out what to revise or edit.

When either of these situations comes to pass the writer is ready to move on to the next stage.

Stage 3Manuscript Review: After Stage 2 is complete it’s time to get a review of the First Draft, from a professional Proofreader/Editor. That review should include a summary of plot, characters and structure. The review may also include notes on the setting and any other issues and/or comments the editor feels the writer needs to improve.

During this stage there is one thing the writer must not do. Do not make any changes to the First Draft. The editor and the writer must be working from identical manuscripts.

What the writer can do:

  • Take a break from writing.
  • Began work on the next writing project starting at Stage 1.
  • Get the First Draft in the hands of Beta Readers.

Beta Readers: Some writers use Beta Readers others do not. ThunderHorse Publishing suggest if this is the writers first book bypass this step.

However if the the writer chooses to to go this route here are a few pointers.

  • Find Beta Readers who like the genre of the book.
  • Do not use family as Beta Readers.
  • The writer needs to let the Beta Readers know that they are reading the First Draft and the manuscript is being reviewed by an editor. This lets the Beta Reader know that the writer is not looking for them to find typos, spelling mistakes and/or grammar issues.
  • Informed the Beta Readers of the scheduled date the editor has given for the return of the manuscript review. Their review and comments will need to be completed by the same date.
  • Furnish the Beta Readers with a questionnaire sheet that includes some of the following questions.
    • How did they like the characters, were they believable?
    • Which character did they like the most, which did they hate the most?
    • What parts of the story did they find boring?
    • What parts of the story did the find exciting?
    • What parts did they hate?
    • Did the Beta Reader finish the book, if not why?

That’s only a sample of the questions that could be asked. What the writer wants to find out is all they can about the plot, characters and story line.

Keep the questionnaires that were returned and compare the answers with the manuscript review when it is complete.

WARNING – Once again do not make any changes to the First Draft. The writer can incorporate the changes from the Beta Readers in Stage 4 if warranted.

The choice of what the writer does during this down time is up to them. ThunderHorse Publishing would like to see the writer do one thing during this time.


That’s right take the time to throw a party and celebrate the achievement of completing the First Draft!

After the celebration if the writer is dying to write but doesn’t want to start a new project, here is another idea. Check out the Visual Writing Prompt Contest and the open submissions over at The Corral, ThunderHorse Publishing’s online magazine.

That will do it for blog two. The third part of this series, How to Write a Book (3 of 4) – Manuscript Stages 4 – 6 will be published on Friday 6-21-19.

Till then party responsibly,

The ThunderHorse Team

Other blogs in this series:

All photos featuring authors quotes are from Author D.L. Fisher . ThunderHorse Publishing post a Wednesday Writing Wisdom using these writing tips plus others. Follow us on one of our social media sites to read them every Wednesday.



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