I made a decision early in the year to get this novel finished. Before it finished me.
I had to put whatever time and energy I had into doing just that. Which meant, among other things, not going to any more writing events, entering any novel competitions, limiting writers’ groups and, for that matter, blogging. I had to grit my teeth and drive on, just like Popeye in the deliciously unhinged car chase scene in The French Connection.
Okay, it has taken an awful lot longer than expected, but I have done it. Some five years after I started, I have finished my novel, with a capital F. And done by the end of September – as I had set myself in July.
It went through a final – and significant – structural edit/edits during July and August. This followed a reading by a friend and literary guru (my words, not his). He rated it, but was quite clear certain work had to be done to maximise my chances of attracting an agent/publisher. At the same time I had two ghost readers – both writers – go through the entire thing. They came back very positive about it. Which, a la Fast Show, was nice.
Finally finishing it was like a weight off my shoulders, even if I had to do several proof reads (the seemingly endless mistakes were a tester) and make little changes (which could go on forever if I wanted to).
I had to brush off an old synopsis and rewrite and tighten it. After that, was the covering letter, which I had not done before. This was quite a bit of work, but enjoyable.
I deliberately had not spent time on literary agents until I was finished. I had little or no idea how to go about this. I sought some advice and perused the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook and spent some time looking up websites, agents and submission guidelines. Note: Being crystal clear on submission guidelines is crucial – and following them.
Then came the moment of truth. Sending off submissions. This was exciting, but also a bit nerve-wracking. It was either I did it, or my long-suffering wife would.
The agencies had different requirements – the first three chapters, the first 10 pages, the first 5/10,000 words, first 50 pages, etc, etc. Same with covering letters. I quadruple-checked the attachments and then (half-cracked by this stage) hit send. Bang. They were gone. (One of the submissions I sent off was by post). Sending the submissions was an even bigger relief, and release, than finishing the book. No more polishing or fretting or pulling hairs or barking. They were catapulted onto the (mainly digital) slush pile.
Much to my amazement, I got one response very quickly, within days, looking for the full manuscript. After that came my first rejection (which was actually an encouraging rejection). That was followed by another request for the full manuscript.
I have wires strapping down any Walter Mitty flights of fancy and have read enough/talked enough to writers to know this is just the beginning. It may go somewhere, but also may not (and the odds are very long). And, I’m not forgetting what my son wrote on a post-it (at right of image) as I scoured for agents…