On revising a novel

I have been revising my first novel, Glue, for several years now. I have a second novel in progress, The Trick, but I’m primarily focused on the first. At some point I have to send it out into the world. My goal is to find agent representation for it.

How will I know when it’s ready? How will I know when the final piece has been dropped into place and (to use a metaphor from an editor friend of mine) the heart of the novel beats? Will I forever have the nagging sense that this or that character arc or plot point could have been handled better? Will I ever really fall in love with my own manuscript?

Getting others to give me feedback helps, but sometimes it backfires. I’m still haunted by a negative critique I got from a friend who completely trashed my writing. Lesson learned: There will always be someone, somewhere, who hates your writing. Everyone’s a critic. Don’t be discouraged. My critical friend and I have a fundamentally different view of how fiction should work.

I’ve had several other people read the manuscript, and I’ve taken action on what I think was the best feedback. I’m pleased because one of my beta readers from last year has agreed to re-read the current draft. She’s my target audience, she’s got a critical eye, and she seems to genuinely enjoy my writing. I can trust her advice.

I have a push-pull relationship with the manuscript. Sometimes I think it’ll never be done. The more I read, the more room for improvement I see in my own writing. Sometimes I hear my critical friend’s words in my head.

At other times, writing is a joy. I look forward to getting my hands dirty, ripping out good writing and replacing it with better writing, pruning the story. I like getting immersed in the fictional world.

The editing process can be very satisfying. Revising is like painting. Layers are added and removed in slow succession until the final product looks nothing like the earliest draft.

What’s your relationship with your drafts? Do you like revising? Do you have that one draft that is always only 90% done no matter how much you work on it? Are you a perfectionist?

early draft of a green yellow and red abstract acrylic painting

green yellow and red abstract acrylic painting

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