That’s the question I’ve been asking myself.
Last September, I finished my novel – and sent it forth to the unwelcoming bosom of agent land.
Now, I’ve just finished it again. Due, it has to be said, to my first foray into that strange world.
Not that it was really that awful. There were a few who seemed to like it and asked for the whole manuscript. But, that’s where it ended.
Some others were quite nice in response and a decent number gave constructive comments. One even liked it a good bit, but not quite enough to read the whole magnum opus.
Thankfully, I haven’t despaired. Mainly because I have a day job – one that has been turned all the way up to 11 for much of this year in terms of workload.
A few months ago, I tried a different tack and sent a submission to a scout. Yes, a new being for me. Not a publisher, not an agent, but a scout for agents.
The scout seemed to like it, but suggested some changes and additions. All of which made sense.
So, I opened up Draft 22, and started on Draft 23.
Novels are, as we know, one entity, so if you make changes at the start (some in the form of content, others stylistic) it has a ripple effect, or multiple ripple effects. The changes have to be consistent throughout the novel.
I went through the entire thing, like a jaded jungle explorer, hacking away.
When you rewrite, there is the fresh potential of new spelling/grammar mistakes. That requires (for me at any rate) another run through, to proofread. For that I printed the thing out. It’s funny when you print it out you see more that needs to change than when you worked on it on the screen. So it turns into more than proofreading, and you make more content changes. And it goes on….
You are frustrated, exhausted, partially blinded (from familiarity), and, at the same time, battling our old friend – doubt and self-criticism.
There is that terrible sensation that you are making it worse, by taking this out, putting that in, rewriting this, deleting that. You can write it to death.
But, at your centre, you have to keep your focus and breathe oxygen into that belief that there is something in this.
Draft 23 has been sent to said scout.
Draft 23 is better than Draft 22. That is true.
But could I subject myself to Draft 24? Or will I mentally (perhaps even physically) fling it into the canal (where my novel is set)?
If a scout, agent, publisher does bite, I’m sure there could be Draft 24 and 25. But that’s different. Because you have jumped that obstacle. There’s progress. Someone else (apart from your wife/mother/dog/cat) actually sees something in it.
Anyway, to all of us going half or three-quarters or nine-tenths bonkers from finishing our first novel, keep hacking/shoveling/polishing.
To torture the much tortured phrase from the tortured Irishman…
Finish. Finish better.