I finished this manuscript back in June, and for some months now, I have been practically vibrating with eagerness, ready to just QUERY THE DAMN THING ALREADY, but it is not time. Not yet.
I haven’t always been the patient little Padawan I am now. Oh no. For my first book, I queried before I really even finished my first draft. I know, I know! Very, very bad. But we all do stupid shit when we’re just starting out, right? So I’m here to keep you from doing stupid shit by showing you just how long it takes to edit a book. Here’s my book’s timeline:
June: Finished the book! Hooray!!
July: I didn’t touch the manuscript for all of July. Not once. This is the mandatory marinating period. And yes, it is totally mandatory.
August: Completed two read-throughs of the book. Authors normally tell you that you’re supposed to try to read your manuscript like a reader (i.e. all in once sitting), but I can’t keep my confidence up if I do that; I have to correct the prose as I go. During the second reading, I created an outline of all of the chapters I’d written.
September: I went through my chapter outline and identified those plarts I wanted to change (e.g. where the story needed help, where I could help flesh the characters out a little more, etc.). I spent the whole month correcting these meta issues.
October: I read through the whole thing twice, each time, polishing the prose and checking for inconsistencies. I fact-checked some of the areas I had breezed over before, and I tried to identify plot holes. This was about the time when looking at my manuscript started to make me sick to my stomach.
November: Off to the Betas! I worked on a new manuscript for NaNoWriMo and completely ignored this one all month. By the end of the month, I really started to miss my other manuscript (It was so polished by comparison! So developed! Wow, could I ever write like that again?)
December: No word from the Betas yet; so I took this opportunity to read the manuscript afresh. And I loved it! I was floating on a cloud of I-am-a-literary-goddess delight! And it was glorious. Still, I identified the weakest sections and strengthened them, and by the end of the month, I was like: the manuscript is definitely ready.
January: Comments back from Betas. The manuscript was not ready. I made the wall of edits (see image below), where I put chapter outlines on index cards and wrote edits I wanted to make on post-its. Every time I completed an edit, I would rip off the post-it until there were no post-its left. Then one last read through, and I am finally, finally ready to query.
February: Just kidding. Two more edits. And then we’re off!
*sigh* And that’s how it goes! And even though it takes forever, the experience was rewarding and empowering and kind of incredible. When I was finished, I realized that the process had changed me into a better, more thoughtful human being. And a part of me was glad it took so long because it meant I had this chance to grow.
What about you? Are you ready to query? Are you closer/farther than you thought? Best wishes to all you guys who are editing and querying. It takes a tough writer to stomach all of that, but as I’m reminded constantly, this is a marathon, not a sprint. And for it to be worth it, you have to figure out a way to take pleasure from the running like hell part.