What to do when the work is done

By the time you read this I’ll have finished draft 9 of Night Shift. Now we have to ask the question: what do we do when the work is done?

The obvious answer is to put up your feet, crack open a beverage of your choice and initiate the frivolities. But, beyond maybe a small indulgence or two, there’ll be no great celebrations for me. Nor will I be rushing to send it off to agents and the like. That’s because this achievement is merely another step along the long and winding – not to mention vertiginous and pothole ridden – road to publication.

We all know what we should do upon completing a draft. We should put it in the bottom of a (metaphorical) drawer for at least three months and switch to another project. We should get away from a piece we’ve become over-intimate with and give ourselves time to take proper perspective. Then we should read the work out loud so we can easier assess rhythm and identify all those silly mistakes we’ve made along the way.

Yeah. That. But also no. Good advice it may be, but I’ve never been so fond of my own voice as to read a whole novel out loud. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been able to leave my own work well alone. I mean, I believe in it. Someone has to, right? As soon as I finish a project I’m too filled with excitement to leave it be. Usually I’m sending it straight out to beta-readers, to agents, to publishers. For all I know what I should be doing, I’ve never quite mastered that particular discipline.

Besides, I’ve done this rewrite at the request of an agent. She’s been waiting for a year, now, for me to produce something decent – notwithstanding that my initial correction disappointed her and I’m lucky she gave me a chance to do this particular reworking. How much longer can I keep her waiting before she forgets me/decides I’m too slow to be worth persisting with?

So whilst I’m not labouring under a specific deadline, the pressure is upon me. I know draft 9 isn’t perfect; I know full well it needs another sweep – a line- as opposed to a copy-edit.

So maybe I’ll take a day off. Maybe even two. But I’ll not be taking my own advice. Draft 9a will be underway before we know it and then it’s off to my beta-readers – if they’re not all thoroughly sick of me and of this damn novel by now.

Then, only then, will it go back to the agent. And if she doesn’t like it it’ll be back to the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook. And if that goes nowhere then maybe it’s time to seriously consider self-publishing.

The work isn’t done. The work is never done. It just changes along the way.

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