“The first draft of anything is shit.’ That is what Hemingway said and he was right. I wrote the first draft of my book almost a year ago and it wasn’t as Hemingway so eloquently put it, shit, but there was no way in hell that it would be appearing on bookshelves, virtual or physical in that state. Eleven months on and I have just finished the fourth draft and is it ready? Erm, no. Nowhere close because this is the version that I will be sending off to my editor for her to cast her critical eye and red pen over.
I almost cried with despair when it dawned on me yesterday that when I get back the edited draft that this won’t be the end of it. Yes, I knew that I would probably have to carry out revisions on the edited version but I hadn’t really thought about it. There will have to be rewrites, proof-reading, corrections, more proof-reading and it goes on. I suppose in my head, what I wanted was to send draft number four on its merry way and have it returned back to me all ready to go, perfect, pristine, a shining example of how a book should be; but that’s not going to happen.
It could be that I’m just a perfectionist but the last thing that I want is to publish something that isn’t , well, perfect. It would be very sad if all of the hours, months and even years that I have spent on a book was just to languish away in a draw, or in a folder on my macbook. just for me to open it once in a while and whisper softly to it ‘ I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody.’
What I’m really asking is when do you know that its ready. How do you know that the book that you have spent agonising, painstaking hours over is ready to go out into the big wide world and fend for itself?
The answer, is that I don’t actually know. I mean, you can’t hold on to your book forever, you have to let it go and I suppose that you just have to go with your instinct. Once you’ve gone through redrafting, editing, proof-reading and beta reading there must be a point where you say to yourself that I can’t do anymore to it. Another way of looking at it, is that when you’re absolutely sick of the sight of your book that that may be a good indication that its ready.
The original publication date of my book, The Sisters, was Monday 29 September 2014, and that day came and went. Why? Because I wasn’t happy with the draft that I had in my hands. So I cut out bits, rewrote entire chapters and got rid of beloved characters. In other words I went on a murder spree and killed a lot of my darlings. This meant that my publication date has now been pushed back to February 2015. I was disappointed at first but I quickly got over it because when I finally publish ‘The Sisters’ I don’t want to hear a little voice in my head complaining that they ‘coulda been a contender.’