How to finish a manuscript

Young Woman Writing a Letter (detail), from a poster for Encre Marquet by Eugene Grasset, 1892. Image courtesy Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Well, by not spending time writing blog posts, obviously.

The manuscript must go to the publisher (for editing) in about week, so the last little while has been just a teensy bit frantic.

I kind of finished working on the text a few weeks ago, and since then I have:

  • drawn up a Macarthur family tree (thank you PowerPoint),
  • included a list of NSW Governors from 1788-1855 (eg, in Elizabeth Macarthur’s lifetime),
  • written an epilogue in which I discuss Elizabeth Macarthur’s legacy and her importance to Australia’s historical view of itself (including very brief biographies for each of her children and grandchildren – a sort of ‘what happened next’, if you like), and
  • tidied up and made consistent all the footnotes (now endnotes) and the bibliography.

I’ve also been sourcing images. Naively, I learned upon signing with the publisher that all the images (including copyright permissions, if relevant) have to be sourced and, where necessary, paid for by me. Much daunted, I duly compiled a very long list of all the images I’d quite like to include and then discovered that some institutions are likely to charge me as much as $150 per image. My image list quickly became shorter! Others charge $45.  And still others, like the State Library of NSW, charge nothing for digitised images that are out of copyright. Guess where most of my images will be sourced from…

For those of you who enjoy meaningless statistics, the draft manuscript currently has:

  • 22 chapters
  • 257 pages
  • 121,791 words
  • 842 endnotes
  • 119 works/sources listed in the bibliography
  • and a partridge in a pear tree (not really)

And of course, now that I’ve stepped back from the text, I keep thinking of things to add to it. My haphazard To Do list reads roughly as follows:

  • acknowledgements
  • psychiatrist’s opinion of John Macarthur’s being bipolar (done)
  • rum rebellion – more depth
  • Elizabeth Farm renovation, add letter from EM to her son. ‘The important improvements your dear father mentions’, Elizabeth explained in a letter to Edward, ‘are little other than delusions.’ (done)
  • ‘Quarrels’ chapter – fix it.
  • Banks of Parramatta River – no mangroves! (done)
  • ending, add EM’s comments about collecting sea shells at Bude and her comments re memories of Bridgerule.

Then all I need do is step back and look at the manuscript as a whole and completely revise and … who am I kidding? As a long time promoter of the saying that finished is better than perfect, perhaps I should start practicing what I preach. And I don’t quite have the chutzpah to imagine that I’ll ever achieve ‘perfect’ anyway, so best get the jolly thing off the editor to see what she thinks of it all.



  1. Nathan Hobby May 8, 2017 at 2:17 pm - Reply

    Thanks for taking the time to update us! Useful information for me on images too. Best wishes for the finishing touches.

    • Michelle Scott Tucker May 8, 2017 at 4:06 pm - Reply

      Thanks Nathan – the images thing is fraught! There may well be a whole other post in it…

  2. Euan May 8, 2017 at 2:23 pm - Reply

    Go, Michelle!

  3. wadholloway May 8, 2017 at 6:01 pm - Reply

    That’s great, not only to be finished but to be finished before deadline. Hope editors don’t give you to much to do (though have read that editors are neither as interfering nor as helpful as they used to be). Will start reading John’s biog asap to be ready to review your Elizabeth.

    • Michelle Scott Tucker May 8, 2017 at 7:37 pm - Reply

      Err, that whizzing noise you heard was the sound of my deadline rushing by at the end of April. But my editor was totally fine with giving me a couple of extra weeks. Seems I’m not the first author to run a little late – who’d have thought?
      MH Ellis’ biography of John is in fact a hagiography. It’s long and dense, but kind of fun if you read it with a dubious air. Michael Duffy’s Man of Honour is shorter and easier.

  4. Bernice Barry May 8, 2017 at 6:33 pm - Reply

    Well done! You’re so nearly there. I had the same experience with the photographs in ‘Georgiana Molloy. I’d paid for all the permissions where necessary for the self-published edition and made an assumption that my publisher would just take over on all that with the new edition. I saw right away, in the contract, that it would be my job once again – so I had to go back to all the contacts and request new permissions for the new book, not ‘self-published’. Actually, everyone was very kind and helpful and didn’t raise the fee any more than they had to given the change of circumstances. I decided to include one image that was the most expensive at $150, because it was an important one. But it is a tortuous road, trying to work out exactly who has copyright in the first place and getting in touch with the right person through the mists of time. And possibly hidden costs in the budget for someone setting out on this for the first time. So, well done, again! Phew.

    • Michelle Scott Tucker May 8, 2017 at 7:39 pm - Reply

      Thanks Bernice, and you’re obviously very brave to tackle the whole images thing twice! I suspect it’s something very few emerging authors are aware of.

  5. ingridbaring May 9, 2017 at 5:47 pm - Reply

    I love the meaningless statistics. More end notes than pages. You’ve gotta love history writing!
    Congratulations Michelle.It’s fascinating to see the machinations of your writing. May your To do list keep shrinking 🙂

    • Michelle Scott Tucker May 9, 2017 at 9:57 pm - Reply

      Thanks Ingrid. Confession: after I counted the endnotes I sort of wished I hadn’t!

  6. Gail Rehbein May 9, 2017 at 8:53 pm - Reply

    This is great news Michelle! Sounds like you’ve crossed enough ‘t’s and dotted enough ‘i’s. Off to the editor with it 🙂

  7. Ms Frugal Ears June 19, 2017 at 10:54 am - Reply

    Your insights on photographs is really useful knowledge to store away for future reference. Sounds like you have been doing a LOT of research.

    • Michelle Scott Tucker June 19, 2017 at 9:57 pm - Reply

      I’m thinking about writing a post about sourcing images. But I’m still sourcing images and still learning new things about how tricky it is! Might have to wait until I’m done.

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