Guest Blogger: Nikki Poppen/Bronwyn Scott

Bronwyn Scott, who also writes as Nikki Poppen, writes historical romance for Harlequin and Avalon. You can check out her latest releases and read more about her at

Today she’s blogging on what it really means to be FINISHED with a manuscript.

It’s a great week. It’s the last week of July and I have just completed my latest manuscript for Harlequin Mills and Boon (on time I might add. I pride myself on never missing a deadline). I hesitate to say I have finished it. I have merely prepared it for the next level. Now, my fabulous editor, whom I adore, will play with it and tweak it, looking for ways to make it a richer telling of the story. Then, I’ll get a shot at putting her thoughts into the story….BUT before we even get that far, before Joanne even lays eyes on it, I will have spent a couple weeks polishing it up. That’s what this blog about: Polishing the manuscript once you’ve written it, that space of time between completing the writing and sending it out. The magic words “THE END” are really a prelude to the beginning of polishing.

I think it’s important to have a polishing process that you use consistently. We need to know our own methodology—why we do what we do. My process works for me. I have very few revisions come back from my editors. I had four on the last manuscript and two on the one before that.

I start with a polishing philosophy: polishing is a chance to enhance the depth of the story and the characters. Polishing is not line editing. For me, reading for typos, grammar etc. distracts me from the rhythm of the story. I set aside time every three or four chapters to do line edits so that kind of work gets done as the manuscript progresses. I also do my word smithing then.

Here’s what I look for when I polish:

Clarity of the characters behaviors: do they have the same ‘voice’ and habits that they had at the beginning of the story as they do at the end?

Clarity of characters motives for liking or not liking each other. Is it clear to the reader why these characters may hesitate to jump head long into a relationship with each other? Am I showing the reader how this changes occurs? (Because it should never happen overnight, or blindside the reader).

Is it clear why the characters have changed their minds about having this relationship? Why is the risk of falling in love now worth it?

Pacing: does each chapter have a purpose? I like my chapters to have two purposes. Each chapter should do something to move the plot along (the villain is amping up his need for revenge etc.) and it should do something to advance the status of the relationship; this might be the characters learning something about each other or coming to a personal realization about themselves.

Does the resolution of the problems facing the characters make sense?

The bottom line is continuity. Does my story flow? Is it well-paced? Do I understand what my characters are thinking and why they think it? If they have a change of heart, what has prompted that and is it believable?

All my best, I hope to see many of you at the conference. Be sure to sign up for those faculty critiques! I did one of those once and it made all the difference to me! It’s really worth it.

Bronwyn Scott

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