Next – what’s wrong with this story?

I’m on the home stretch of this novel. I am working on a long scene now, and it’s almost done. After that I have six more scenes to go, three of which are short, and three long. I’m aiming at getting two done today, and possibly starting on the third, which will leave me three and a half scenes to go. I believe – fingers crossed, holding breath – that I’ll be able to finish this project by Tuesday at the latest. That’s Tuesday September 28th, two days ahead of my revised goal of September 30th, and a full seventeen days ahead of my original goal of October 15th.

Once I’m done this first draft, I have to put it in the hands of those lovely and intrepid people who have volunteered to read and critique for me. They get a maximum of fifteen days to do it, and then I get fifteen days to rewrite. That’ll be a frolicsome fortnight indeed! I plan to lock myself in my office and get my husband to slip flat food under the door. You can put just about anything on a pizza, so a balanced diet shouldn’t be hard.  Dairy Queen even makes ice-cream pizzas, although they won’t survive the hour-and-a-half trip from Sault Ste Marie to Wharncliffe.

Flat coffee is going to be the tricky part. Maybe I’ll just mainline it and have an IV tube running to the hall. David can hang up a fresh bag of French roast (milk only, no sugar) as needed.

First, I have to get the critiques. I had tea with a friend yesterday, and she asked me, “But what if most of them say ‘it’s fantastic, it’s perfect, don’t change a thing’?”

Flattering as that is, I doubt very much that it will happen. I don’t know if anyone has ever written a perfect first draft. (Maybe James Joyce with “Ulysses” – I mean, really, how could you tell it was flawed? Beep-beep-beep! Snark-o-meter flashing!) Anyway, I already have a list of my own of things that need rewriting, and I’m sure my astute and intelligent readers will be able to add to it.

That’s the point of the exercise, after all. I want to make this manuscript as good as I possibly can before I submit it to the tender mercies of Penguin’s editors.

In university I knew a woman who had worked for a publisher on her summer holidays. Jo said she would find it hard to submit anything because she had heard office staff mocking and laughing at submitted manuscripts. I figure if they don’t do it where I can hear, I don’t care. Both she and I were very young then; I’ve had time to grow a thicker skin, and I don’t doubt she has, too.

I appreciate the willingness of this group of friends, some of them fellow-writers and some not, to read a brand-new, first-draft novel, and what I’m hoping is that they will be honest about what interested them and what bored them, what they wanted to linger over and what they wanted to skip, the characters who seemed real to them, and the ones that didn’t. I have no doubt they’ll tell me.

After that, I’m putting the pizza place on speed-dial.

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