I was asked the other day how I feel when I tap out the immortal words THE END at the completion of a novel. The question hints that the novel is perfect first time round, when in reality this is far from the truth. The first draft is simply that, a first attempt to get all your thoughts, ideas, plots, characters and dialogue on paper or on to your computer. It is by no means THE END but only the BEGINNING.
The timing of the question was quite eerie because I was just reaching the final pages of the copy edits of my latest DI Horton marine mystery crime novel Blood on the Sand which is being published by Severn House in February 2010. It is the fifth in the Inspector Horton series. Reaching the end of this my feelings were relief mixed with anxiety: is it good enough? Should I re-write one more time? Could I have changed anything? Too late…I’ve pressed the send button and it’s gone to my editor. The next time I’ll get to review this will be at proof reading stage and all the anxieties over what, if anything, I should have changed will return. But by then it really is too late to make changes.
So how do I feel when I tap out the immortal words THE END at the completion of a novel? (Although I don’t actually tap out THE END).
It really depends on which draft I am writing. After the first draft there is a feeling of elation - I have finally managed to reach THE END after bashing out, as quickly as I can, somewhere between 80,000 to 100,000 words. With the second draft comes a greater sense of satisfaction that all the ends are beginning to tie up neatly. The third and fourth drafts fine tune the novel and by the time I’ve reached the fifth and sixth I’m beginning to know it backwards, upside down and inside out and can no longer see where the glaring holes are – time to get a second opinion. But always, no matter how many drafts it takes to get to the final version, when I reach THE END I feel a shiver up (or should that be down?) my spine. This can be a shiver of satisfaction or excitement or both, and if I feel that then hopefully my readers will feel it too. And I’m pleased that Inspector Andy Horton has survived another case and will live to solve a new one in the next novel.
Taking time over the revisions and revising again and again until you are happy with your work is essential for any author seeking publication. So don't skimp on it. And if you need to get a second opinion then it could be worthwhile sending your MS to a literary consultancy or manuscript consultancy service for an unbiased opinion and suggestions where you can improve your work. It will cost you but it could be money well spent.