On Tuesday I typed “The End” on the bottom of a 124k manuscript, did a little chair dance, and cracked open a bottle of Bulmers to celebrate.
In about a month, I will go back to the beginning of the same manuscript, and start ripping it apart, paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence. Because novels are never finished, not really. They’re merely brought to the point where they can be comfortably abandoned, where any more fiddling might do more harm than good.
Some authors fall into the trap of thinking that “The End” means the end, that their novel is complete and ready to be unleashed on the world with no further work. But the end of the first draft is just that – the first draft. It’s a good, solid foundation to work from, but it’s by no means a finished book. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking it is.
The Bookseller have released some statistics today that indicate that self-published authors who invest in editing and proofreading do better, financially, than those who don’t. That’s not just an investment of money. It’s an investment of time.
It took me eight months to write the first draft of “The Art of Forgetting”, then, after a break of a month, a further four months to pull, prod and bash it into a shape I was reasonably happy with. (I still go back and tweak it every now and then, if I have to look at if for submissions, etc). The month off is important. It gives you time to distance yourself from the manuscript, to view it with a more objective eye. This is also a good time to let your beta readers have a look, as they will be able to read the complete draft and notice things you’ve missed, like plot holes and continuity errors and places where it plain doesn’t make sense!
When you come back to it, you should have a clearer overview, and you can take your time and make sure it’s as good as you can get it before unleashing it on the unsuspecting public. Don’t be tempted to skim this stage. You want to have a finished book you would be proud to show people before you start submitting, or publishing if you’re a self publisher. There’s nothing worse than finding a crashing mistake just after you hit “send.”
We all want to write books we can be proud of, and proper editing and proofreading is vital to achieve that.