It’s been about four months since I finished up the edits on my first completed novel,
CHASING AFTER VANITY. I can tell you that I am still extremely proud of that accomplishment, and I’ve also very much enjoyed the experience of searching out an agent to try and get it published. As I’ve said in a previous post, I look at the search – to include the unavoidable rejection letters – as a rite of passage for the aspiring author. However, the fact is four months and 12 rejections have prompted me to review my work again, and I am really glad I have.
I re-read my manuscript cover to cover for the first time in a couple of months, and I was surprised by what I found. Technically the manuscript is pretty tight, although to my annoyance I have found a few typos. Okay, so they’re fixed. But what’s worse is that some constant criticisms that I received from my beta readers have now just leapt off the pages. Allow me to explain.
In short, all my beta readers (3 who read the whole book, and 2 who have only read portions) told me that the book starts off slow, but then really picks up. Now, I accepted the fact that since everyone said that, it had to be true. The only thing is, I kind of minimized the criticism. I essentially allowed the “slowness” as a necessary evil, essential plot development that would lead my readers to the much more engaging story a few chapters in.
You already see the problem here. Since when does anyone but close family give a book that kind of latitude? The long term cost of such a move would be to convince would-be readers that they had better uses for their time since it would be unlikely many readers would stick it out to finish a book that didn’t reel them in quickly. But the more immediate cost, of course, is that many potential agents ask to read the first 10-50 pages of a manuscript. And since the first couple of my chapters have been critiqued as “slow” from a range of beta readers, I think the odds are that these agents came to the same conclusion.
Oh, and something else: I discovered that woven throughout my novel, in slightly different variants, is the phrase “made his way,” or “made their way,” as in “He made his way to the third floor.” A quick “Find all” revealed these two word groupings appear at least 23 times in the manuscript. I’m shocked that I didn’t see this before.
So the moral of the story is I’ve learned that I need to keep at it, to continuously review my writing, even if it’s technically complete. I’ve recently read a number of great articles from authors that encourage writers to be patient, to not short change their work by rushing it to publication. Keep revising, keep editing, and it will pay off one day. So that’s what I’m doing. The first four chapters of VANITY are probably going away. So far I still love the rest mostly as is, but changes will happen there as well. I think it’s the right thing to do, and I hope by sharing this it’ll encourage you to have patience and to stick with it even in the face of these kinds of challenges.
Take care, and happy writing.
I feel for you, yet I know what a HUGE step this is, so congrats! It’s all part of learning, and while at times rather unpleasant, completely necessary. I once asked an instructor how to figure out what to use when I received 17crititques back from a class story and they were all different. He said, “Go with the numbers. If one person tells you something, it doesn’t mean much, if 3 or more say the same thing, give it some thought.” Best of luck!
Thank you very much for your encouraging words. These experiences, both positive and negative, have taught me a lot – and I’m sure there’s plenty to learn. Thank you again!