Well, I’ve finished another one. Book that is. And it’s always a strange feeling when I finish a book. Those last stages of editing and re-editing are an obsessive time, and I can hardly think of anything else, so when I come to the last page, there’s something of a feeling of relief – tinged with an otherworldly sense of coming out from the dark. Then I begin to feel pleased with myself. I mean, why wouldn’t I? I’ve just finished a 120,000 word novel. Except, of course, it’s not really finished at all. There’s still a long way to go.
My first reader is always my wife – and I try not to ask, but can’t help the ‘is it all right?’ question and the ‘what bit are you up to?’ question. It’s only natural. And, of couse, it’s good when the right reaction comes at the right time and in all the right places. And it’s even better when she puts down the last page and says ‘Wow,’ because then I know the book’s got something. There’ll be a few typos to clear up, (which I’ve just finished amending) and then the doubts seep in. I begin to wonder if I should have added this or that; if I should have made one character more prominent than another; should I have amplified this part of the story rather than that? Should I have ended it on a different note? Is the beginning gripping enough? Is . . . well, you get the picture.
Anyway, there has to be a point when you put a manuscript to one side and look for the professional opinion so . . . off it goes to my agent. And I know that she will tell me what’s wrong with the novel. Thankfully, I’ve never had to plough through any massive edits at this stage – but there’s always that possibility, right?
So that’s where I am now. The printer is buzzing behind me (my agent, Carolyn, likes paper and ink, and that’s fine by me) and I’m getting ready to send the manuscript out for the next part of its journey – and I mean that in the sense of travelling from here to there, rather than in the reality tv show/xfactor sense of ‘it’s been an incredible journey, man’. After that, there’s my editor’s approval to seek, but that’s another step along from where I am right now – I’ll get to that later with a bit of luck.
I have no end-of-novel rituals. No single glass of champage, no succumbing to tobacco just this one time, no nothing. Just another cup of coffee and the beginning of a new book while I wait for the verdict on the one I’ve just finished.
And, hopefully, you’ll get to see it one day, printed between covers.