Motivation Reflective Writing Writing Fiction

So, you’ve finished writing your novel? Well, here is a Cautionary Tale

I am just about to come to the end of what will be the final edit of… Draft number 12 of my first novel… I think it’s number 12, but I’ve lost count. So I’m a long way off seeing my book in print, let alone watching Renée Zellweger win another gong for playing the part of my MC and thanking me in her acceptance speech.

If you think finished writing your novel, well here is a cautionary tale. I’ve learned the hard way. Don’t let it happen to you.

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” Terry Pratchett

I hadn’t been aware of Terry Pratchett’s words of wisdom when I finished writing the first draft of my first novel. If had been, I would have saved myself much embarrassment.

When I found myself at around the 95,000-word+ mark, I was ecstatic.  I had a beginning, a middle and an end, it was an exhilarating moment. I plastered my jubilation all over social media, before running off a copy of the manuscript, lovingly caressing its pages as I fantasised about not only a book deal but audio and film rights as well. What I was actually celebrating was finishing the first draft. I had told the story to myself which, I realise now, is when all the hard work starts.

I think all we aspiring writers would admit to cringing when reading stuff we wrote a couple of years ago. At that stage, my impatience got the better of me, and. I had the nerve to start sending it out. Friends and family, initially, who must have wondered if I actually command over the English language, let alone had what it takes to write a book. It was cringe-worthy, and I am embarrassed by my former self.

Things got worse, after the first two or three edits, I started sending it out to agents. No wonder I never got any response. So I was brought back down to earth early reasonably quickly.

One year on, and I am just about coming to the end of what will be the final edit of… Draft number 12… I think it’s number 12, but I’ve lost count. I’m a long way off seeing my book in print, let alone watching Renée Zellweger winning another gong for playing the part of my main character. Thanking me in her acceptance speech for writing such a memorable character, and winning the Booker Prize.

The moral of this story is… don’t be an over-eager beaver when it comes to sending your manuscript to all and sundry. Be patient, wait until you’re until you’ve written at least eight drafts before you celebrate The End of writing your novel.  

If hopes and dreams for your book are ever going to come to fruition, it is going to be down to hours of editing. Most importantly, please don’t think about sending your manuscript anywhere until you are absolutely sure that it is as good as it possibly can be. Make sure you are absolutely confident you have a manuscript worthy of all your hard work. Even after you’ve done all that work, someone else will come along and make suggestions for further edits. 

Just saying… it’s best not to start celebrating too soon. 😉

1 comment

  1. Ah yes, the writer’s tale… I doubt there’s an (honest) writer alive who couldn’t tell some version of this, Tessa. I think it’s fine to hand over an early version of a manuscript to trusted readers for feedback on basics like characters, motivation, story arc and the like. “Tell me what’s wrong, what’s confusing, what’s boring,” I say, and they do. I do this when I have what I call a “readable draft” (usually about draft 3). But yeah, that’s definitely not the one you want to send to agents.

Thank you very much for visiting my niche-less blog! If you have time before you leave, would love you to tell us what you think. All the best, Tessa Barrie

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