When is your novel ever finished? I’m asking for a friend…
Oh, who am I kidding. I’m asking for me, of course. As of today, it’s been nine years since I started this little project. A dubious anniversary, indeed! In all fairness, it hasn’t been a solid nine years. Things have come up. Like the kids, for example. I saw a book dedication once that said something along the lines of, “To my loving family, without whom this book would have been finished years ago.” Yep. Sounds about right.
But it’s the phrase “loving family” is key. This novel has always been a side project for me. My writing group talked once about how the best writers were often the worst fathers, mothers (less so), and/or significant others. We didn’t name names, but The Walrus did a few years ago: https://thewalrus.ca/great-writers-terrible-parents/
However, I think it’s a truism (of sorts) of any craft or profession. How many leaders in their fields inevitably get to read their children’s tell-all 20 years after the fact to see in black and white how those missed birthday parties ruined them forever?
So, the reason “loving family” strikes me most is because I made the conscious decision to put other things first. Work, family, house stuff – the grass isn’t going to cut itself. (I’ve researched this extensively.) Not to mention keeping up with friends, especially when we already feel like we don’t get to go out together as often as we would like. How can you regret not writing when your life is so full already?
In other words, no regrets – but I do have an antsiness to get this novel done. Since the first reading copy came out, so many people have congratulated me on “finishing my novel”. Almost as quickly, they wonder why I’m not so happy with my accomplishment. It’s because of one simple fact: the novel isn’t finished yet.
Second Reading Copy is Now Out There…
I took another step forward though this summer. Early in July, I gave my second reading copy to a new group of beta readers. I’m so grateful to all my readers for putting in the time to critique it. The feedback I got in the first round was so helpful – and eye-opening. I can’t stress enough how important it is to get opinions from other people. Things you thought were so obvious are not. Even more alarming, things you didn’t mean to say ring loud and clear to everyone. You get a sense of how Dr. Frankenstein must have felt, putting so much heart and soul into creating a new, living being, only to have it decide it was going to wreak havoc on the world. (Thankfully, misplaced bon mots do not kill innocent villagers.)
Feedback from the second group is coming back now, and already I see more ways I can improve the book. There will be changes, though so far not the drastic, wholesale changes there were before. I expect this will be the last round of changes before I start sending out to agents. There will be more changes then too, and if it finds a publisher, more still.
So when will the novel be finished? When that final text starts rolling off the printing presses, seems like the best answer to me.
Then it will feel like a whole, complete accomplishment.