When is a Novel Ready?
- when it’s as good as you can get it.
- when you’ve said all you need to say.
- when your mind starts twitching toward the next project
- when you start thinking of all the things you can do when it’s done.
My novel has been nearing cooked for awhile now. I’m on what I hope is my final redrafting. Some readers have told me it’s “that” close.
But… in the past two weeks I’ve found two contradictions that no one has picked up on in all the previous edits and reads, especially not me. i.e. in one chapter my main character lights the gas lamp, two chapters later she flicks on the light switch. (Early days of electricity and they had it in some houses but not in others. This instance was unfortunately set in the same house. Sigh.)
Small things yes, but important.
So am I much further away than I think, or is it simply that writers have to work through all the editing layers for certain problems to reveal?
I think so. I always find it amazing the different types of problems I find in each fresh edit.
For me, it’s always like the miniscule things slip through the many reads and drafts because I’m looking at story development first, and then for things like language, consistency, characterisation, pace, rising tension, balance, scenes, dialogue, narration etc. So many levels and layers before certain obvious or minor issues may jump out. It works the same for finding pieces of info or small incidents that come too late or out of order.
A crit buddy is advising me to set aside what she calls my usual pursuit for perfectionism. And I suspect she’s right. I want this manuscript to be the best it can be, but I don’t want to edit it to death either. I want to stop while the natural and unique voice, my beta readers all love, is still spontaneous and fresh.
It’s imperative it be the best it can be because I don’t want to waste one opportunity with any potential publishers or agents.
It’s thrilling to think I’m nearly there. And terrifying. Three years is a long time and this novel has seen some major and painful interruptions in its birthing.
My darling Mum became ill in 2009 and though I was able to write in the six months before she died, in the middle of the night and in snatches, I wrote only six-thousand words in the six months following.
I strongly believe now that the quiet and deep grief in losing Mum enabled me to write some of the harsh and passionate scenes of loss in my story with a greater power and empathy. It enabled me to tap into a grief I’d never known previously.
I’ve been blessed with a very happy childhood, marriage and children. My life has been fortunate and blessed in so many ways. I am so lucky to have lived the life I wanted and dreamed of, my one wish is that I’d started writing earlier.
Of course, writers write from imagination and we don’t need to live something to write about it, but I do think the heartbreaks and fears of the past three years have rounded me as a writer and brought a far greater ability to feel my story at a level I suspect I would not have had circumstances been different. (Much as I wish them so.)
I’ll never really know how much events influenced the evolution of my storyline. I do know my resulting novel is a powerful testament to women’s strength in a tough era where death and suffering were a given part of life. Stoicism was expected and vital for women in order to survive and endure.
So is it ready? My novel, I mean. Nearly – so close now.
I’m getting some advice from a professional editor on whether it needs a structural edit. I’m way too close now to tell. So much is working, but am I missing something? I’ve written this novel with a huge passion, but always intending for it to be published. I want it to be read. Breaking in to get a first novel published through a mainstream publisher is harder than ever. I want this novel to be the best it can without overworking it. It’s time now for a professional opinion.
Then I’m sure some rewriting – one last draft – a resting period. A final read through, and then, I’ll begin the submission process, which I’m already formulating to target publishers, and seek an agent.
But that’s another blog for another day.