Sunday, 31 March 2013 do I know when it's done?

Still here - in the deep, dark editing cave.
But how do I know when it's time for me to come out?
I mean - will I be able to tell when the book is as 'perfect' as I can make it? Will I even be sure that I've incorporated all the agent's suggested edits into it? How - how - will I know these things?

Editing Cave image suggested by Suzanne F - who has clearly been lost in the dark before me.  Cheers, Suzanne!

Because I certainly wasn't seeing it too clearly before.
I thought it was ready to submit - and I was wrong. Actually, I thought I was writing a romance, but the agent's remarks suggest it's more of a thriller. I even thought I'd caught all the typos - now I know that's never going to happen!

I don't know anything...

A kind friend said, "You'll know when it's right. Promise."
Aargh! The classically tactful way of saying, " You'll never know this, you sap!"
More than ten years ago, I can remember asking someone how I was supposed to know whether to get married or not. "When it's right, you'll know," they said. (I didn't know.)
"And how do you decide when to have a baby?" I asked someone else, later on. "Ahh, when the time is right, you'll just know," they replied.
Well, I went ahead and did both those things and I hoped for the best.
But I never knew - never!

Oh, Google! That's not the Editing Cave.

Most of all, I wish I knew how long it takes to edit a book. A few days? Weeks? Months?
"Ask the agent," suggests my husband, quoting the bit in the email that reads, "Do let us know if something's unclear."
Which is crazy talk, of course. I have to approach this as a test. I have to be quick - efficient - professional - slightly telepathic. And above all I mustn't pester the agent with stupid questions or reveal myself to be a flake until they've signed me!
(Besides which, if the answer is 'A few days' or even 'A couple of weeks' I don't think I'm ready to hear it. What if I never work up the confidence to send the stupid book out again?)

I'll probably wait until I feel as if my time is seriously running out - then send it in a panic! (Because - let's face it - that's how I made my decisions on marriage and children.)

One of the things I'm wrestling with at the moment is the suggestion that the heroine should bond with the (bad-boy) hero in talking about their respective home lives.
Trouble is, I don't think bad-boys do talk about their home lives - not willingly. Not unless you offer them money or crack or something. So I've been racking my brains to think of examples of some of my favourite bad-boys who open up about their home lives.

River Phoenix in Stand By Me became a bad-boy because he was accused of stealing the milk money. Actually, he did steal the milk money. But when he tried to give it back, it was stolen by someone else. A hard lesson - which made him tough and cynical.

Flynn Rider in Rapunzel became a thief because he grew up in an orphanage and - um - that's pretty much his excuse - although he adds that he often read stories to the other orphans about a dashing bandit named Flynn - which made him tough and cynical.

Richard Gere in An Officer and a Gentleman became a bad boy because his father deserted his mother who promptly committed suicide. Richard Gere blamed himself - which made him tough and cynical. Although I think I may've left it a bit late to work anything quite this heavy into my plot...

Since I'm also supposed to be cutting as many words as possible, it's pretty tempting to write something along the lines of: -  "As the sun sank low in the sky, the two of them lay back in the long grass and chatted. He told her about his home life, and she responded in kind..which bonded them forever."

After that, I have to make my heroine more sympathetic. So I'll be pondering the virtues of Rapunzel, Debra Winger and Will Wheaton...before deciding to write a scene in which my heroine rescues a kitten from a well in the opening chapter. Gah!

(Approximately 12, 300 words now chopped!)


  1. I so understand what you are going through! Am I finished yet is a question I frequently ask myself. Several times with 'Arrosay' I have thought, yes I am done, only to revisit a month or so later and start tweaking again or noticing mistakes. I've come to the conclusion that I could go on for ever and never hit perfection! Anyway my idea of perfection may not be the same as the agent or publisher! I suggest get it as perfect as you think it can be then resubmit. It sounds like you have an agent who is interested in seeing more which is great news.

    If I can help with any specifics let me know. I'd be happy to read through anything if you think a another opinion might be of use to you.

    Hope your Easter weekend is going well x

  2. That's so kind of you - I'm definitely going to bear your offer in mind! I think the most helpful advice (as always) is that all the other writers feel this way too.

    My Easter is going very coldly, thank you. After a trip to Weston-Super-Mare this morning, I've decided not to come out from under a pile of blankets until the end of May. Or possibly June xx