Saturday, 19 July 2008

Are you ready?

Today I have been researching agents thanks to the help of such mighty books as The Writers’ And Artists’ Handbook 2008. I also have in my collection The Writers’ And Artists’ Handbook 2006, the same again for 2005, and possibly even the 2002 vintage edition tucked under my old bed at my mum’s. Please let this be the last year I buy this book – lovely though it is, if I stored them all in one place my shelves would fall over.

It seems the big question every agent hints at is ‘are you really sure your novel is ready to show me?’ The tone implies that unless you are on draft twenty of the entire thing then you really shouldn’t send it anywhere near people who know what they are doing. This makes total sense – sometimes you don’t see mistakes straight away, and if people are sending submissions stuffed full of typos, errors and plot-holes I can see it doesn’t give an agent the best impression. The novel could be brilliant, but the agent would have to expend a lot of energy to get it up to selling standard, whereas they could simply go for somebody else’s polished novel instead.

Do I think my novel is ready to send to agents? I really don’t know now… I have been rinsing and scrubbing the first three chapters for the past month on and off, but the rest of it needs a dip in bleach. So do I continue re-drafting the whole thing, or send off the first three anyway, as there may be a wait (of up to two months, potentially, so says the Great Book), and that should give some good scrubbing time, in-between long hours commuting and working like a demon. Sigh…

I also have an eager reader… good friend A’s mum saw the first three chapters at her house and asked to read it, and now she wants the next lot! This is great, as it means I’m getting a nice range of ages to read this for me, and it also spurs me on editing chapters four & five. So maybe I should just keep going… it’s a bit hard to work out how many drafts I am on though. As when I was writing it I kept going back to edit… I think I will count the real first draft as the first edit of the whole finished thing, in which case I am only on (first draft) chapter 4 out of 22. And then when I reach the end I’ll repeat the process - maybe after that I can answer the question ‘are you ready’ with confidence, as I queue up for the latest blue rinse and a pension.

Hmm, so it seems I need a plan. I’m just going to have to utilise lunch breaks for editing, and be especially strict some evenings and at weekends. I can do this, I know I can, and I’m not going to spoil it now. Also it means I can dream on a little longer and not send it anywhere just yet – did you notice that? I did.

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