I’m into the final effort now on The Swan Harp. I had feedback from seven people, all of which will be incredibly useful. I’ve already started some of the work, and I’ll be at it in the car from now until September 30th, which is when I’ll be sending in the manuscript. I’ll probably also work on it at other times.
The whole business of critique is an exercise in trust and vulnerability. A writer puts that work out to readers, trusting that they will comment with honesty and care. It’s scary and exciting and also necessary, because it’s very, very hard to see mistakes in your own work. Oh, you can catch most of the spelling errors (I routinely do a search-and-destroy for “form”, which is how my fingers usually type “from”), but you’re going to miss something for sure.
But that’s only a little part of it. Writing a story means that you live with it for months – in my case, three years. I have a very well-developed visual sense of what’s happening, what the place looks like, sounds like and smells like, and how time is passing. It’s sometimes difficult to know when you’ve failed to pass that on to the reader. The people who looked at this draft were able to tell me when something confused them, when I needed to refresh the scene, or the memory of where we met this person before.
So it’s into the home stretch now, excited and also a little trembly about finishing. Have I really done my best job? Could it be better? I think the answer to both is “yes”, but there comes a point when a work has to go out into the world. Nothing is perfect, but I think I’m as close as I’m going to come. I’m also prepared to be proven wrong again, and to do one more rewrite, should the agent I’m sending this novel to a) decide to take me on and b) decide the story needs a bit more work.
In the meantime I’m planning to participate in NaNoWriMo and work on something completely different, take a break from the Iron Age world of Kiar and her family and move into a dystopian post-apocalyptic future. I’ve already done quite a lot of research for that novel, and I’m eager to start.
In and around all this, too, I’ll be doing the humour columns and newspaper work – less of that than there was before the full-time job – that will keep my hand in for periodicals and blogs and so on. As I think I’ve said before, the writing life is a busy, layered life. I wouldn’t have it any other way.