Thursday, October 3, 2019

When it's done. Finito. Dead and buried. (And I am too.)

By Catriona

How do you know when you’re finished and it’s time to submit? Do you take a break or start right on the next one?

Coming Oct 22nd US. Buy it here!
I know I'm finished when I am sick to the back teeth of every word in every sentence on every page of the damn thing; when I can recite screeds of it without so much as glancing at the text for guidance; when no matter what the problem - m-lines instead of n-lines, continuity problems caused by a skipping a day of the week, suddenly realising the villain's motive is contradictory with a sub-plot - my go-to solution is "cut". Cut the word that needs a hyphen. Cut the week out of the story. Cut the sub-plot. Cut the villain. Just CUT.

When I could have a ninety-thousand-word novel down to a haiku by teatime? That's when I know the book needs to leave my hands and flee to someone who'll take better care of it.

I don't even care that I'm handing over a book that's a career-ending disgrace. By this time, I'm fine with not being a writer any more. I just want my agent to read it quickly, phone me, and tell me straight. My covering email is usually something like this:

>From: Catriona
>To: Lisa
>Subject: new book
>Here it is then. It stinks. Cx

And Lisa's back to me is:

>From: Lisa
>To: Catriona
>Re: new book
>Thank you, darling. Lx

Because, by this time she knows better than to argue.

Then I forget all about it. I truly do not care. I'm finished and I never have to think about it again. Bright side, see? Because it's unpublishable tosh, I won't need to edit it, or talk about it, or go on panels and hold it up. Yayyy.

Lisa's next email is always perfectly timed for the moment I've just decided that I quite like being a writer and, besides, I'm not qualified to do anything else without a lot of retraining. Plus I remember what I wanted to explore in that book and I feel as if it would be pretty cool if it worked out and got published actually. So when I see another reply to my "here it is and it sucks" email, I get a blotchy neck and my pulse starts to beat in my throat. I open it.

>From: Lisa
>To: Catriona
>Re: new book
>Utterly brilliant. Best ever. I love it.
>One or two tiny things. Let's talk tomorrow,
>evening my time. You clever, clever, girl. Lx

To which I send the last of these ceremonial emails. The one that goes something like this.

>From: Catriona
>To: Lisa
>Re: new book
>Phew. Oh, thank God. Really?
>Thank you. OMG, what a relief.
>Tomorrow's good with me. Cx

And that's when I can get stuck into the next one. Seeing as how I'm still a writer and all, you know?
Truly, this job is not a shortcut to mental tranquility, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

coming Nov 5th US. Buy it here!


Brenda Chapman said...

You've summed up the end stages of writing a novel and the angst perfectly. Your agent sounds like a gem.

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Sage advice, Catriona – When you could have a ninety-thousand-word novel down to a haiku by teatime, that's when you know the book needs to leave your hands.