Week after week, tweak after tweak. The idea of a finished novel is an oxymoron. At least that’s been my experience to date. Perhaps that’s just how it goes with first novels- only time will tell- though deep down I am beginning to suspect that it happens to every author, on every novel. The problem is that every time I read it, I think of little ways to improve it. Every time it goes out to BETA readers, their comments give me ideas. And then I make changes. Small ones, large ones. Small ones that become large ones. I’m now on version 7 of Ancient Tide, a book that scored an average of 8.5 out of 10 from BETA readers in version 4! That was 3 versions ago and much has changed since then. It has improved immeasurably, though I will confess to having occasionally realised that I’ve made the story worse and at thanking I’ve had to rewind!
So is this just constant tinkering, or a labour of love? My best guess is that it’s a bit of both. On the one hand I have an innate desire to finish it to perfection, but on the other, I must acknowledge that a part of me fears finishing and all that will bring. You see at that point, not only will the effort to publish begin in earnest, but I will also be consumed by a very real grief. For two years I have lived and breathed this story. I’ve mulled over plot changes and character developments in my every spare minute. I’ve found myself placing milk in the pantry and cereal in the fridge, whilst trying to solve the latest plot dilemma. The idea that I may never work it again is too awful to consider.
With every day, the prospect of finishing Ancient Tide looms larger. This time, it needs to happen. I’m desperate for more people to read it, to tell me they love it, but I can’t ask for feedback. I know the hours of rework that a single spark of wisdom might trigger, and I can’t risk that. No. It’s time to trust my instinct. Version 7 is far greater than version 6, and it is there that it needs to end. In a week or so, Ancient Tide will go into quarantine, not to protect me from it, but to protect it from me.
So what advice do I have for any authors out there? Be embracing of feedback. Nurture the ideas of readers and make them better. Know what to dismiss and what to consider. Be clear on what you think needs changing and use the views of others to confirm what you already know.
But above all, know when to stop!