Just before Christmas, the first draft of my new novel, The Jagged Line, was returned to me by my editor. When I originally started writing, I had no idea how long it actually takes to write a novel – and by that I mean from start to the actual finished work, where it’s ready to go. I used to think that the first time I typed THE END that was it! My manuscript was finished and ready to be sent off to an eager Agent, desperate to receive it. How little I knew – at that point, I was at the mere foothills.
It was a harrowing time waiting for my Editor’s feedback, wondering if the novel was complete rubbish, or if the structure was all over the place. Were the characters realistic and likeable? Did the plot work? Did I hold back enough information to keep the reader guessing, yet remember to tie up all the loose ends?
I sent my novel off not knowing how good or bad it was and when the edit came back my initial response was “Oh, no … I was hoping it was almost there!” Of course, I should have realised that one’s initial draft is never “almost there.” It takes the detached view of an Editor to look at a piece of work objectively and point out the bits that need more (or less) work. For me, it’s usually building more depth to my characters and simplifying my plots. Even though I know my characters intimately in my head, I have to work at putting them onto the page in a way that makes my reader know them almost as well as I do. As for simplifying my plots, that’s the easier bit. I tend to put too much in because I do like my red herrings, but too many red herrings just ends up being confusing – so a couple of sub-plots have hit the dust!
So the rewrite began – using the chapter by chapter break down my editor had very efficiently provided. This chapter needs more pace; that one needs more character depth; the next one (hurrah) is “fine”! With her thoughtful comments and observations to guide me along the way, I’ll hopefully provide a much tighter and thrilling novel. So many people ask me how my book’s coming along and I always feel embarrassed replying that it’s “almost there” – because “almost there” can still be several months away! However, I was comforted recently by another author who commented that “the finest, most delicate brush strokes, come on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th edits”. I’ve come to realise how true that is.
So finally, The Jagged Line has come into being. In a week or so, I will be sending it off for a final professional copy edit to make sure that I’ve crossed all the T’s and dotted the I’s. That will take 2-3 weeks, after which, it will be almost ready to go!
Meanwhile … to whet your appetite … here is a preview copy of my cover design for The Jagged Line. Hope you like it.