Apparently, the average number of rewrites for a published novel is seventeen. I handed in my twelfth draft to an editor a month ago and this week I got the report back. In short: great rewrite, needs another draft.
My initial reaction was: oh, bollocks. I was at Paddington Station, early for a train, when I got the email. I went to to a nearby café, ordered omelette and chips, and used their free Wi-Fi to download the full report to my laptop. I mean, for goodness’ sake, that’s fifteen months’ work (in addition to the seven years it’s already taken with this novel). Sometimes, you really need a long train journey to Bristol to sit with the frustration.
Anyone who’s been following the saga of the-writing-of-the-second-novel may remember that this is the editor who told me I needed to change one of the main characters. The fifteen-month rewrite was the result.
But I know how I am. Two days of despair, and then starting to pick myself up. By the time I had emailed her back, I was able to conjure, in her own words, a ‘measured and kind response.’ Now, I’m beginning to see the positives.
The truth is, the comments that she made? She’s right. In particular, finding a more convincing motivation for one character to become involved with the other, and a greater intertwining of their stories. Also, getting more edge-of-your-seat, forward movement to the story. These, like the writing of a more dynamic character before, are invaluable, if painful, lessons. My underlying aim in all of this, after all, is to learn how to write (see top of this page).
So, time to scrub the writing off the chalkboard, plomp myself down on the chair, chin in hand, and start thinking again.
Can I do it? I hope so. I am calling the next draft my fourteenth. I know it’s my thirteenth. But, quite frankly, I need all the luck I can get.