NanoWriMo Tip #23: Don’t send out a half-baked novel manuscript


Around Thanksgiving, pies are my thing. Besides pumpkin, I've been known to make a mean pecan pie, too.

Unless I feel the grocery store is gouging their customers on pecans. Then I choose walnuts. (See my recipe, below…)

And because the pie is soused with so much Amaretto and lined with so much dark chocolate, it doesn't really matter to my family what kind of nut they're eating, because they're enjoying the hell out of every bite.

Unless the crust is under-baked.

Sadly, that can ruin everything.

To ensure the crust at the bottom bakes fully but that I don't burn it around the edge, I will bake my crust first, for about ten minutes, prepped with tinfoil on the bottom and along the sides of the inner shell, which if then filled with dry beans or dry rice to hold it down and reduce heat exposure.

Saves my arse every time.

Now that you're in the last few days of National Novel Writing Month and are feeling great about your word count, I want to give you a gentle reminder that this is just the first draft of your book.

In other words, it's only half-baked.

Before you get literary agents and editors to bite, make sure you've done the following to ensure it's as tasty to them as possible:

1. Re-read your manuscript.
Specifically, for holes in your plot. Trust me, there are some. Perhaps a story thread that isn't knotted to anything else, and therefore isn't necessary. Or for scenes that go nowhere: that have no spice. If it bores you, it will bore those critical first readers too. Or for any little niggling thing that bothers you about your story, whether that be a character's name, or a location that hasn't been fully visualized for the reader, or for a paragraph that seems to slow the plot down.

Re-reading encourages editing.

Editing tightens your plot.

A tight plot makes for a great story.

2. Now, re-read it again.
This time, for character flawsThis does not mean that your characters should be perfect people. BOOORRRRRING. It means that your writing has to make them come alive on the page.

You won't be doing this by telling us about them, but showing them in situations that make us love them, hate them, be annoyed by them, root for them….

In other words, we've got to care about them.

3.  Once again now: read it. I'm begging you, please.
You're doing this in order to catch typos you've missed during the first and second reads. (They are there, just waiting to be found!)

You're doing this because tight (plot, characters, dialogue, story flow) makes right. 

And you're doing this in order to fall in love with your manuscript all over again. Because when you're high on it, you'll write a fantastic query letter for it, too.

Between that letter and your fully-baked manuscript, you'll have agents beating down your door.




Question of the day: How many times do you re-read your manuscript before sending it out into the world?  And honestly, do you feel it's enough?

Happy Thanksgiving — and happy National Novel Writing Month,

— Josie



  • 1/2 stick of butter or margarine
  • 1 BAR of at least 70% dark chocolate
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark corn syrup
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 Amaretto (Bailey's or Carolans works, too)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust (my favorite is Trader Joe's roll-out crust, found in the refrigerated foods area)
  • Pinch of salt


  1. Heat oven to 350°F.
  2. Prick bottom and sides of pie crust with fork. Press heavy-duty aluminum foil onto bottom and around side of pie crust; fill with uncooked rice or beans. Bake 10 minutes; remove foil and rice. Bake additional 7 minutes or until pale golden brown. Cool on wire rack.
  3. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Stir together chocolate, walnuts and flour in medium bowl; set aside.
  4. Beat butter and sugar in large mixer bowl until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in corn syrup, vanilla and salt, beating just until blended. (Mixture may look curdled.) Stir in walnut mixture.
  5. Pour mixture into baked pie crust.
  6. Bake 55 to 60 minutes or until outer edges of pie are set and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out with just melted chocolate. Center will still be jiggly. Cool completely on wire rack. Cover; store up to 2 days at room temperature or if storing longer, refrigerate. 8 servings.

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