Having just come out of a writing competition called Chapter 1 Blitz, run by the wonderful Freshly Squeezed website, I’ve been re-writing the first chapter of my young adult novel, Facing Up.
This may seem like a weird thing to do, given that I self-published the entire novel last year on Amazon as an eBook, and I also had 100 copies printed in paperback. Obviously at the time I thought it was just about ready to go!
But eBooks are easily enough re-printed – Amazon will notify the first edition buyers when a second edition is released, so they can update their copy for free. And I can get another lot of paperbacks printed (that first edition may be worth something one day! Ha ha.)
However, it begs the question – how long do you re-write for? When is it ‘finished’?
At least if you have a publishing deal, it will be most likely finished when your editor is happy with it – after all, they’re the ones investing their experience and their publishing company’s money and time, so it’s their decision in the end.
But if you’re on your own, it’s hard to know when you’re ‘polishing’ the manuscript before submitting it to an agent or publisher or a competition.
You can always self-publish, but again this is an investment of time and money – this time your own! So it’s up to you.
You could pay for professional editing to help guide you to the ‘polished’ stage. Again this is open to interpretation – one editor may have entirely different ideas to another. But it is wonderful to have that experienced eye look over it and give highly useful criticism and praise in equal measures. But of course you need to be able to spend the money to do this!
And then there’s beta readers… They are people who will read your manuscript at the draft stage (first, second, third, fifty-sixth draft stage, whichever!) for no cost, and give you constructive criticism. They usually aren’t your best friends or family members, who understandably find it hard to say more than ‘I really, really liked it!’ (when actually they stopped after the first few chapters and skimmed the rest – just joking, friends and family!). Beta readers can be found easily enough via Goodreads or Tumblr websites.
Or find a CP (Critique Partner) to swap drafts with – perhaps a member of your local writing group, or another self-published author in your genre (again try Goodreads or Tumblr). Click here for the writer Ava Jae debating which is best – beta readers or CPs.
I had been working on that book for many years (admittedly, some of those years were entirely fallow), and I felt it had finally got to a readable level. But I kept making changes right up until the last minute. And now, having re-worked chapter one, using notes from critiques from fellow writers and industry professionals from the competition, I can see how it’s changed for the better.
Yes, I can see that I could keep going endlessly updating! And I don’t have an answer for when YOUR manuscript is ready, unfortunately.
But I can say for myself that I was happy with the edition I put out, and I’m also happy with the changes I made to Chapter 1 recently, so in the end it is up to me. It’s my book, my hobby and my time and finances invested – and I’ve had very good feedback from people who have enjoyed the read. So for now that is enough for me 🙂