We all love that moment when you get to type ‘The End’. All those words, those characters, that plot that you’ve held in your head and wrestled with and somehow got down onto the page. Well done, you! You’ve written a novel. You’ve suceeded where so many others have failed.
But here’s the thing: The end is just the beginning. There are of course novelists who can write perfect first drafts, but they’re in the minority. I’m one of the many writers who expects to do at least two drafts and a polish before it goes to my agent. Some tips for the rewriting/editing process:
- Take a break before you allow yourself to read your novel – at least a week.
- Read on paper, not on screen. Jot down your thoughts as you go, whatever they might be.
- If you’re anything like me, you will hate your novel more and more as you get into the middle of it (the soft underbelly). When you’ve finished, you will probably be scraping yourself off the floor. That’s OK. Most of us feel that way. You can fix it.
- Take some time to get your thoughts straight. Your back brain will be working long before you have any answers. Go for walks, do other work – Let it all run through your head and make notes when you can. If you need another opinion, ask a smart reader who’ll give it to you straight (preferably not your mother or partner).
- Your inner editor should start coming up with some answers now. Take time to plan your rewrite. Planning is hard work, but plans are liberating and so helpful. Once you know what has to be done, you can relax and have fun with it. Give yourself deadlines but make them realistic.
- Take the time that is needed to get your novel as good as you can possibly make it. It’s vital to do this before you even consider submitting to a literary agent.
Great novels and great novelists are made in the rewrite. Published novelists are not just talented – they also have stamina. Jojo Moyes (pictured) is a regular (and wonderful!) guest speaker on our Curtis Brown Creative novel-writing courses. She realised a few months back that she needed to cut 70,000 words from her novel-in-progress. Here’s her blog about what happened.
Jojo Moyes’s latest best-selling novel, Me Before You is a 2012 Richard & Judy Bookclub choice.