Nothing is ever finished

Nothing is ever finished.
You’ve written your novel, what next?

Ready to write

The chances are, if you’ve finished your novel, you will be champing at the bit to get it published. Thanks to innovations over the past few years, you can now do this. In fact, if you finished your draft today, you can have your published book on sale by tonight. But hold on! Nothing is ever finished.

I tend not to reread my novels, not once they have been put ‘out there.’ It’s not because I don’t like them, I do, very much. It’s not because I have read them before, I have, several times. It’s not because I have other things to do either, I have plenty. I tend not to reread them as I don’t want to find errors, I don’t want to think, ‘I could have done that differently,’ no matter how useful such thoughts are. If I reread some of my very early novels (the gay thriller Other People’s Dreams’, for example, I would not be satisfied with it at all, and there’s a reason for that:

I wrote it over a period of about three years, I submitted it to some publishers and had interest from one, the British publishers, Gay Men’s Press, and was very excited and encouraged when they talked about publication and sent it out to their readers for comment. Sadly, some of the readers thought it was ‘almost but not quite’ and, soon after, the publishers disbanded (nothing to do with my book!) I did, however, get an agent at the same time, and she read the book, had a heart attack and retired to Spain. (Again, nothing to do with my book. At least that’s what she said). So, many years later and along comes a self-publishing platform and one of the first, if I am not mistaken. Here I was suddenly able to upload my Word doc, see it laid out and then design a simple cover and, by tea time, have it ready for sale. It really was (and is) that quick and easy.

Grammarly home

But. Over ten years later and I have learned a thing or two. This is what I mean by ‘Nothing is ever finished.’ Here are the stages I have been through to complete my latest novel (my eighth published so far), ‘The Saddling.’

  • “I had a dream.” The idea for this story did, in fact, come from a dream. One of those dreams that leaves you with a feeling rather than just a snippet of imagery. It was an unsettling feeling and one that I wanted to explore in novel form.
  • I thought it would make a good film too, so I went through all the stages of plotting a film script: structure, character, setting, storyline, character development, spreadsheets and notes, images of the location, visual ideas and all that. I put it down as a screenplay in under 120 pages – TIP: it’s a good way to concentrate on your storyline but be aware of structure: most films are heavy on the structure before anything else.
  • I left it alone for a while, worked on something else and came back to it later. No-one was going to buy that script, but I had the basics for the novel. I set about the first draft.
  • This took a further year or so (one must do paid work in between writing sessions, unfortunately) including an intensive week away on a small island near me, Tilos, where I hammered out a further 35,000 words during my ‘Holiday.’
  • My novel was finished and, ten years ago, I would have sent it straight to, or even Create Space, and published it that night. But I had learned something in the years in between.
  • I left it alone for some time and worked on something else. I came back to it as a second draft and added in ideas that had occurred to me during that time. You should always be thinking of ‘the book’ and what you can do to improve it. I tend to work on about three stories at any one time, the first draft of something is always at the back of my mind.
  • I then ordered an A4, spiral bound, copy of draft one from Lulu. TIP: You can do this, keep it private, no need for a cover, and you can sit and read it in print, rather than on the computer. It looks different, you see it in a new light, and it was cheaper than buying the paper and printer ink I would have needed.
  • I attacked the draft (2) with a red pen and wrote draft 3. This was more a question of cutting and pasting, deleting over 10,000 words (from 110,000) and writing new sections. Some sections were simply edited.
  • I had a few people read draft 3 by sending them PDF files and, in the case of my editor, another A4 printed version.
  • I listened to their comments and wrote draft 4.
  • Then draft 5 – which was more of an editing job on my part. I also ran this through Grammarly to check up on my grammar. TIP: Don’t rely on the built-in spell and grammar checker with Word, always get a second opinion.
  • Draft 5 was sent to my editor, and I left it alone for a while. He came back with a few comments, and I edited things down to make draft 6.
  • The editor (who I work with as the indie-publisher and who also does my layout) set the chapters into Adobe In Design, and we looked at a few things like chapter length. I then did some further editing and layout work before sending him the final draft 6 files.
  • We then edited some more to make draft 7.

As I write, we are still working on the final layout of chapters ready for publication in April/May. He sets them out and sends me a PDF, I read them and hopefully find no errors. (He was still finding a few typos in my draft six – nothing is every finished.)

the saddling
A professional cover design is worth the investment

Once that draft is complete, we will then go through the manuscript, via Skype as he is the in the UK and I am in Greece, and we will ‘slaughter the widows and orphans’ to get the layout just right. That will be draft 7 and will be the final draft. Unless I reread it and want to make more changes. For changes, read improvements. But I shan’t as you can easily overdo something and kill it by fiddling with it. While all this was going on, I was also employing a cover designer, and this novel has my most professional cover to date.

As things stand today, March 5th, 2017, we have set out the first three chapters, another 35 + to go and then the widows and orphans to get rid of before uploading it to Create Space and Amazon for publication.

You see? Four years down the line and we’re still not quite finished. So, unless you know you have the perfect story told and laid out in the perfect way, don’t rush into publishing your book. Take time to make it perfect. You owe it to yourself, and you owe it to your book to make it the best you can while always remembering, ‘Nothing is ever finished.’

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