I said in part 1 of this post that I’d describe in more detail the times I sent my manuscript out when it wasn’t ready. I’ve also included a few times I could have, but didn’t.
Completion of first draft
Nine months after I had the original idea for Child Taken, I’d got a first draft that wasn’t bad. But I’d heard an interview with Jeffrey Archer in which he said that he took his books through at least a dozen edits so I knew that this was just the beginning.
Time to send? Many do but please, don’t be the slightest bit tempted.
After the third/fourth or fifth draft
This is more like it. I think I got to a stage where I’d done three rewrites of the original draft and just left like it was enough. I also wanted someone to say, if it was woefully inadequate, that it wasn’t worth carrying on. They didn’t, and I actually got some positive feedback which was nice but the manuscript was still a million miles from what I needed to have.
Time to send? It gave me a sense that I was on the right lines but if you can hold back a while longer, you’ll benefit in the long run.
After some editorial advice
I felt there was something missing and I sought an external opinion. The editor I worked with said lot of positive things but also highlighted lots (more than twenty) areas where I could make some significant improvements. The story didn’t change but the way I told it certainly did.
Time to send? More like it but make sure you’ve incorporated as much advice as you can into that next rewrite first.
After the eighth or ninth draft
At this stage, I was hovering somewhere between loving and loathing the book. It felt like I was going over the same lines over and over again, changing one word here and there. But the finished article felt better and I had some really positive comments from several agents that offered a lot of encouragement (one even set up a meeting – see the next blog for that story) and I began to get a little excited.
Time to send? You can’t just keep rewriting. At some stage you’ve got to bite the bullet and don’t worry – you’ll find out quickly that you’ve still not done enough at this stage.
After the tenth draft
I still wasn’t getting anywhere. I’d learned that the feedback, however positive, always had a ‘but’ attached. The excitement waned, as did my enthusiasm. With each bit of feedback, I was making tiny tweaks here and there. Not because of feedback, but because I wasn’t 100% comfortable with it, I also rewrote part of the ending and was much happier with what I came up with. I took an extract to a publishing event and it was really well received, so much so that my rollercoaster ride went on an upwards trajectory again.
Time to send? Possibly. But be prepared to take on board a lot more at this stage because by now, you’ll be completely blind to your manuscripts imperfections.
When a publisher finally said yes to Child Taken I had become so immune to the highs and lows that it almost passed me by. I had sat watching my Inbox for so long, waiting for emails that never came or guessing what they’d say when they did, that I was drained and just waiting for something to go wrong.
But it also highlighted, starkly, just how far away I was from the gold bracelet with the diamond set into it. Even after Red Door came on board, I did a further two versions, then a copy editor made a few more changes, and during proof reading there were even more so that right up until the print deadline, we were still making minor alterations and improvements; sometimes to just one or two words.
But the truth is, your manuscript can always be better. I can read the proof copy of the book now and find bits I’d change but you can’t go on doing that forever.
You just reach a point where you’ve done as much as you realistically can to make your book the best it can be.
That’s when it’s ready.
Next Time….Week Eight: It’s Not You, It’s Me. No, Actually It Is You (or Who To Submit To) – Part 1