That’s it. I’m finished. (Again…)

eggs-14177_640Some time ago I wrote about completing my edits and finally having Singled Out – the finished article – ready to submit to agents. Okay, so I was wrong. But I’m really, really finished now. Honest.

Last September 2013 – over a year ago – I fancied I’d finished my book. I was happy with it, as happy as one could be with a first attempt anyway. Several passes through the text had resulted in me reducing an unwieldy 107,000 word draft down to 97,000 words, more acceptable to agents and publishers – apparently. I’d sweated blood over a synopsis and cover letter and begun to fire my story off to a succession of agents. Over the ensuing weeks there were flickers of interest here and there but nine months later, nobody had bitten my arm off for the rights to market my book.

Cut to July 2014 – and several months since I’d read more than the odd paragraph of Singled Out. Having considered the full manuscript, a couple of agents had offered me a few lines of critique. Ignore these courtesies at your peril, I thought. So I decided to take another look at my story to see if I could address the issues raised in their feedback. I passed the not-so-finished novel to two or three more beta readers too and significantly, I read it again myself from beginning to end.

Have you ever put a piece of work down and come back to it after several months? Then you’ll know what I found, and you’ll understand my crisis of confidence. So, so many surplus words, lines and whole paragraphs; description overload, formulaic chapter openers; language I thought was gritty but now just made me blush; motivations that didn’t quite add up; character clichés; pitiful pacing… I could go on.

Okay, it wasn’t a total disaster but what with the agents’ feedback and my beta readers’ comments too, it was easy to see a thorough review was required. Fortunately, with the benefit of distance came the ability to detach, to disown aspects of my narrative that I’d been so precious about, to murder those darlings and get ruthless. So I made a start.

The last three months have been, as they say, emotional.

At the outset and for several weeks I hated Singled Out. I was one small step from shoving it in a drawer and forgetting all about it. I resented the fact that as I took account of both agents’ and beta readers’ critique and began making changes, it seemed no longer to be the book I’d set out to write; it was trying to be something different. In the meantime it was a bugger’s muddle, all bent out of shape. It felt as if I were shoehorning things into the text to turn it into something it wasn’t. It felt as if I’d lost my way with it. Teeth gritted, I plodded on, resenting my mashed-up, mangled manuscript.

I was in the throes of a proper writerly temper tantrum.

I don’t know quite when it was, but a couple of weeks ago, I started to get it. Perhaps things had to get worse before they got better (you know that cliché about breaking a few eggs to make an omelette). I can’t tell you exactly what I did, because I honestly don’t know. But I started to feel better about my book. It had gone through another two end-to-end edits; I’d added four or five scenes, moved a few things around, played with a couple of the characters, injected odd moments of uncertainty and dismissed another 7,000+ words. And you know what? I actually feel quite a lot happier with it now.

The best thing is, I’m excited by Singled Out again, and excited by the decision I’ve made to self-publish early in 2015. For a start, I can’t face touting it round again when I know the chances of it gaining traction with an agent – let alone a publisher – are meagre to non-existent. Secondly, I’ve come to see self-publishing in a  different light. I want to manage my own destiny, put my story out there and see what people think of it. And… I want to get on and write the next one.

So that’s the plan. I’m doing my homework on self-publishing and aim to get to grips with all the necessaries in the coming few weeks, then publish in the New Year.

Then… I’ll just hold my breath.

27 thoughts on “That’s it. I’m finished. (Again…)

  1. I think rereading stuff after a time is a bit like listening to yourself on audio- you suddenly notice all the ‘errs’… Fingers crossed for you in the New Year!

  2. It’s amazing what some distance can do for us in terms of our manuscript. Sometimes it’s as you describe, and we see we have more work to do. Other times we realize it’s better than we thought. Glad you were able to work some things out. Best of luck with your decision to go Indie. Very exciting!

  3. I’m so pleased you’ve fallen back in love with Singled Out and have made the decision to publish. It’s a great book – even in it’s “twisted” state – and I’m sure over time (as with all things self-publishing – it’s a long game) it will find its audience.
    If you need any support or advice, just shout 🙂

    1. Thank you. Even though I got grumpy about it at first, it’s all been for the good. Your own observations were very pertinent and made me look again, particularly at pacing and tone. I am indebted to you 🙂

      I may well need to pick your brains but for now, I’m just trying to navigate my way around all the information – and sort out a cover design (that’s daunting and fun at the same time… makes it very real, doesn’t it?).

      1. Where are you planning to get your cover design from? Are you going bespoke or for a pre-made cover? And yes, it feels very real because it IS real. You’ll soon have people paying money for your book! 🙂

        1. I’m not sure yet. I couldn’t see any pre-made designs which inspired me, but totally bespoke is a bit pricey. I’m looking at 99Designs at the moment, wondering if that might be a good way to go – a half-way house.

  4. Best of luck with self-publishing. I’ve been re-writing a manuscript I’m not passionate about and I can relate to the desire to shove it in a drawer and move on. This book isn’t the genre I usually write or read and I think that’s why I feel so dispassionate about it. I want to get it out of the way in a sense but I’m hoping for the moment you had when I start to ‘get it’ and can finish the book with confidence.

    1. Writing is a deeply emotional process. We pour our hearts out on to the page and, just like in relationships, there are good times and bad. For a while, my novel was ‘sleeping on the couch’, but I think we’ve made up now. I felt it had used me up over the past three years; we weren’t communicating and I felt badly done by, having put so much effort into it. Strangely enough, the changes were all relatively modest, but collectively, they put the story on a stronger footing, which is when I started to love it again.

      I do hope you can overcome your frustrations and fall back in love with your manuscript too.

  5. Very nice post. I’m in the ‘I hate it’ stage of revision myself, but I’m finding inspiration for my rewrite exploring my characters’ motivations, creating some emotional traumas in childhood, etc. Congratulations on feeling excited about your manuscript again and best of luck in the world of self publishing.

    1. Motivations is an interesting area and getting to grips with the past history of a character is a great way to uncover why they think and believe what they do. I’ve picked up on this for my characters too.

  6. Thanks for sharing. This is totally what I needed to read today. I’m currently attempting draft 2 of my first novel (the first that made it to the end of daft 1 anyway) and bugger’s middle is exactly how I’m feeling about it. It’s stuck somewhere between my initial intention and I’m not sure yet. Nice to see a reminder that it’s possible to come out the other side.

    1. Aww.. I’m glad my timing was good for you! You WILL come out the other side. It really does have to get worse before it gets better. It’s a bit like when you tidy a cupboard – you have to pull everything out and spread it all over the floor before you can discard the rubbish and put the usefuls back neatly and in the right order.

  7. Good for you! I ALWAYS shove my books in a drawer and try to forget them before I start the editing process and ‘rest’ them again before the final pass(es). The edits often take longer than writing the original… But I don’t know of another way to disconnect myself from the love affair I have when writing the piece.

    1. Thank you! Creating some real distance – ie, not just a couple of weeks – albeit unintentionally, has proved a very good thing.

  8. Henry James revised and republished nearly everything when he was an old man. (Moral: revision can go on till the grave.) Still, I’m glad you’re done. For now. Can’t wait for January (or February) – and a published product to read!

    1. The question always arises, how do you know when your novel is finished? I think (i) it will never be truly ‘finished’ and (ii) but you have to stop somewhere. There comes a point, surely, when tweaks and edits and deletions of just one more surplus adverb or adjective makes little or no difference to the reader’s enjoyment. A law of diminishing returns. My priority now is to get it ‘out there’ and see what readers make of it.

  9. Good luck with self-publishing. From what I gather, you have to have a go-get-em attitude and a lot of energy to self-promote. Not something at which I excel. I would be interested in the synopsis you’ve written. I think that actually is one of the harder things to write. How do you boil your 94,000 word tome down into two succinct paragraphs that are so gripping, people can’t help but read what you wrote? I don’t know if it is actually possible.

    1. I had real trouble writing a synopsis when I needed it – and I don’t believe I ever got it to a state I was really happy with. Now I don’t need it any more. I drafted a fresh one because I was tempted to enter a writing competition, but then I changed my mind. I’m guessing that being relaxed about writing it – caring less about the ‘rules’ and not trying to cram everything in – was the key to getting it smoothed out. It’s around 500 words now and most likely, nobody will ever see it! I can’t show it around because it does rather give the plot away. 🙂

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