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This Writing Life: The Year AFTER the Novel

16 February, 2011

There is a feeling amongst a lot of unpublished writers that the holy grail of writing is the novel. So many people want to write a novel, or start one and never finish, that to actually get to the end of one feels like having ‘made it’. Writing 100,000 words (or however many your novel comes to) is such a massive achievement that it seems as if everything afterwards should be easy. A few light edits, dash off a query letter, grab an agent and hey presto! you’ve sold a book.

Sadly, it’s not that easy.

My partner made a comment a few days ago about my editing. “It’s a whole extra year of work after you’ve written the novel, isn’t it?” he said, and he’s right. By the time I reach the end of these edits (and the end is finally in sight now), a whole year will have passed since I started them. Longer, by far, than the amount of time it took me to write the first draft.

There are a few reasons for this. A lack of motivation, particularly in the second half of last year. Trying to work on too many things at once and not giving my edits the attention they needed. A lack of practice at editing in general, because I so frequently write first drafts which I never go back to. All in all, it’s not surprising it’s taken this long.

Today then, I want to put out something of a warning, or at least a note of caution. Writing a novel IS hard work, definitely. Unfortunately though, just reaching THE END is not enough, at least not for most people (and most new writers, in particular). When you’re considering how long working on your novel is going to take, you may need to double your first draft writing time to take editing into account – or even triple it if you already know you’re going to struggle. It’s only AFTER the editing that you can really say you’re finished, and start looking for agents or publishers.

I don’t want to diminish the achievement of writing a novel here, not at all. However, if you are coming to the end of one, it’s vital to be aware that the work isn’t over yet – and it might not be for some time.

  1. 16 February, 2011 6:11 pm

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the whole process was as fresh and interesting as that first draft? I am like you, that I love to write that first draft and tuck it away and start the next new, exciting thing. But I also find that once I’ve committed myself to revision and buckled down and gotten it done, it gives me more of a sense of accomplishment than the first draft. I guess because the first draft is a lot of fun, while the editing/revising process feels like work. Congratulations on the end of the edits being in sight for you–I hope you get a good feeling of accomplishment when you finish them like I do! And I hope it turns into something good as you start looking for those publishers or agents.

    • 18 February, 2011 10:09 am

      Thanks, Jeannie! Always good to know that I’m not the only one going through this whole crazy, frustrating, yet always fulfilling process. Editing certainly does feel more like work than writing the first draft, but I’m beginning to feel a distinct sense of satisfaction that I’m making the novel better. As for the agent search… Well, I’m trying not to think too hard about that particular mountain at the moment!

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