Tuesday, 11 March 2008

When is it done?

I'm in the midst of doing some final edits on a (unpublished) novel. A senior editor at a major publishing house read three different drafts of my first novel but ended up rejecting it. This potentially crushing blow was softened by her telling me I have "talent" and asking to see my next novel.

It just so happened I have recently finished a second novel. It was on the back burner as I started my third, but now I'm revising it again. I always try to let work sit for a while before revising. It's amazing what you'll catch when you do this. If you're reading a piece for the fifth time in a row your mind will start "knowing" what's on the page and stop picking up what's really there. A break helps cure that.

The question is, when is a novel ready to submit? That's a tough one, because any piece of writing can always be improved, Anne Rice's defensive griping on Amazon notwithstanding. This question is even harder to answer because unlike my history and travel books, I don't have a contract or deadline for my novels. I can tinker with them until I'm old and gray. The adage that a university professor told me that, "Your research is over when you run out of time" doesn't apply.

Luckily, now it does. I told the editor she'd have the novel by the end of this month. Strike while the iron is hot, as it were. I don't want her forgetting me! So now I have a deadline, and several great critiquers helping me along, so when it pops into that editor's inbox (yeah, she's letting me electronically submit, I love this woman!) it may not be perfect, but it will be done and it will be the best it can be.

Perhaps setting artificial deadlines is the best way to "finish" uncontracted work?

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Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog, where he focuses on Civil War and Wild West history.

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