I wouldn’t normally get up in the middle of the night to edit on purpose, but I’d been awake since 2.30 already, and lying in bed staring into the dark seemed like a waste of possible productivity. So, at 3.20am I got up, sat on the couch with my laptop and edited the final 30 pages of the sixth and final draft of my first completed, polished manuscript.
This project has been a long journey for me. I began the first draft in January 2005 with nothing more than a sliver of an idea. No plot to speak of, no character profiles, no real idea of where it was going. This is not the ideal way to begin one’s first book.
Over the years, the plot meandered along, sometimes aimlessly, sometimes with bursts of genius. I added new scenes in one draft that I subsequently deleted in the next. I implored George and my friend Bek to read it and give me the feedback I needed. Gradually, I made it a little bit better with each new draft.
The third draft was commended in the IP Picks competition in the Best First Book category, and I was asked to revise it and resubmit to the publisher. The fourth draft, while better, only inspired an invitation to pay the publisher for another evaluation. I decided not to continue down this line, but I did use the feedback to write a fifth draft, which I entered in a few other competitions without success. I didn’t know quite what to do with it by then, so it languished on my computer for another year or so while I wrote another manuscript.
Last year, I entered this second manuscript in the Hachette/Queensland Writers’ Centre Manuscript Development Program. At the very last minute, I remembered that first story that I had worked so hard on, and decided to enter that one as well. I gave it a quick tidy up and sent it off, fully expecting that the other one would better meet the guidelines of the competition.
To my surprise, that fifth draft won me a place on the program and one of the most awesome experiences in my writing career. Long story short, but the feedback I received while on the program shaped the sixth and final draft.
Yes, it will be the final draft. I’m sure I could keep working on it and making it a little bit better each time, but at this stage the effort it would take is greater than the desire. Of course, if I get significant interest from a publisher with more changes requested, I’ll go back to it again, but in my mind, it’s finished.
Today I sent it back to the publisher, and also to the agent I met on the program. I’m not holding my breath. I’m still one of thousands of hopefuls that try their luck with the publishing industry every year. But I know that I’ve made it the best it can be.
Now that it’s done, I have no idea what I’m going to do with myself. But I know I’m ready to move on.