As Gordon Ramsay so often says when conjuring another fine dish for us home chefs to marvel at…
Trouble is, I’m not sure writers can ever really say we’re ‘done’. I thought I was done a while back but then I sent my debut novel out to a few agents and they wrote back very politely to say that their idea of ‘done’ wasn’t really the same as mine. At least, I think that’s what they said, because the average form rejection is an abject lesson in what isn’t said, so much as what is.
Thankfully, there were two or three agents who took the time and trouble to offer some personalised feedback and, from those precious comments, I was able to figure out that I can probably write but just hadn’t got this debut novel nailed. Too many POVs, that damned prologue I fought so desperately hard to keep (don’t worry, I did eventually surrender), starting the story in the wrong place, too much telling – in fact just about every mistake it was possible to make including, but not limited to, all those errors any beginner would be expected to deliver.
But by this point I’d discovered the deep and desperate importance of Beta readers and Critique Partners. Honing my pitch in competitions had blessed me with the opportunity to find a few wonderful writers who didn’t mind seeing mine if they could show me theirs. Because while we might not all be the best writers, we’re all pretty good readers, and that feedback is worth it’s weight in gold.
So I revised my story for the, oh I don’t know, twenty seventh time, and sent my manuscript to a few trusted souls who promised to break it to me gently. And they did.
Ahhh. Still, not quite so done as I thought.
So I went onto revision thirty nine, or was it forty six, and sent it all out again. The feedback was better, there was even occasional praise, and I felt like I was getting somewhere.
Which is when an agent saw my pitch in a competition and asked for the first 50 pages. And then the full manuscript. And then wrote back and said, ‘ya know, your synopsis is incredible but there’s some free-writing hiccups in here and a few other things to fix (here’s a list). You’ve got three months to sort it, good luck.’
And I cast around and looked again and noticed the distinct lack of a comfort blanket. I was on my own. And it didn’t feel very nice. So I called for help in the form of a professional freelance editor (thebrazenbibliophile.com) I’d found thanks to Twitter, which has a habit of bringing us writerly sorts together.
I sent Marissa my Revise & Resubmit notes and told her I wanted to do the best possible job of fixing the issues highlighted therein and, by the way, what exactly was a free-writing hiccup (plot while you write, write while you plot) and please could she tell me how to fix it. And she did. Along with a long list of other things. And then she told me that my book was shiny, and she was confident it would be picked up by an agent, and to get on with querying so I could write another one. Which felt nice.
But I’d fallen for that ‘someone just said something nice about my book’ trickery before so I sent the revised version out to those trusted readers again, including a couple who are particularly diligent, and I still got a list but it was much shorter than before. In fact the list was mostly questions such as ‘you sure this is what happens when you shoot a man in the head’ (yes, I checked) or ‘how does she know it was insulin’ (it said so on the syringe) and having now answered every question I’m going to make a very bold statement.
Now we all know that means not really done. Just done for now. Until the R&R agent says ‘still not good enough’, or ‘good effort, now fix these last few things and we’ve got a deal’, or after that, should I be really lucky, an editor starts having their deserved two penneth. None of which I mind, because I’m only interested in one thing:-
Getting done. Whatever it takes, however long it takes, no matter how many hours it takes. I’ll do whatever I need to do until it’s done.
But I thought you should know, for now at least, THE SAWOL: DISCOVERY is done. And the reason I nearly believe it, is because the last time I read it there really wasn’t any screaming. At least not from outside the cover.