Saturday, 1 December 2012

The final draft?


The time had come when I thought that I should commit to the 'save and publish' button. 

After all, it was the fifth draft, edited and re-edited, checked for spelling, grammar and punctuation, its plot so tight it might snap, characters so engaging you feel as though you have met them personally, and an ending that leaves enough said and enough left to the imagination.

So, what on earth was I waiting for?

Well, I thought, I might just read it through one more time...

Then, as I went back to the beginning, I missed the the way I had felt at the end. 

Every agent says that you must grab your reader in the first chapter, the first page, the first line.  But, although this may be true some of the time, I would say that the majority of books I have read, and thought memorable, have not been instant in their appeal.

I like my interest to grow as I turn the pages of a good book, getting closer to the characters, to their hopes and concerns, their idiosyncrasies. Finding out how the plot is developing, second guessing, and revising my assumptions.  Taking part in the game set up by the author and hoping that I will not outwit him or her, that I will be surprised, delighted, entertained by the turn of events.  All this takes time, and cannot be delivered in the first few pages.

I felt like this about Sarah Waters' The Fingersmith, Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman.  All favourite books of mine that got better as they went on. 

What is difficult for new writers is that readers have no innate faith that you will deliver.  They cannot rely on past form, because they don't know who you are.  They have taken a risk based on a five star review or a pithy blurb, and so it becomes even more important to spark interest in your reader, to keep him turning the pages. 

Consequently, I will look again at the beginning of my book, because it is the beginning of everything that comes next and must instill a desire in my reader to find out more, in a steady yet irresistible building of empathy and curiousity.

There will be significant events, of course.  The plot must have a structure.  But it's not all about precipitous excitement and dramatic sequences.  I want my reader to believe in my characters, whether they care about them or despise them.  I am after an emotional involvement. 

I think I am probably ready to publish.  My trusted proof readers say that I am.  But, the more I write, the more I learn how to write, and the more I seek a better product.  Not because I believe that I will be famous one day or sell millions of books, but because I want to publish a book that is as honed as possible in every way in order to give my reader as positive an experience as possible. 

If that means that I must take the time to let a book rest and read it again, then so be it.  I shall begin again at chapter one on Monday morning and, who knows, by Friday I might be satisfied.  Or not...

You might have noticed that I have not mentioned the title of my book, and I have to admit that the reason for this is simple - I have not found one that I like well enough yet!

Bev Spicer 


  1. All good sentiments, Bev. Caring about your readers and characters both. I am a big believer in grabbing the reader on page one and yet it is so hard to pull it off with authenticity unless you are writing action or horror. Characters and their relationships take time to grow. Good luck finding the right moment to abandon your first novel and start your next.

    1. Hi Rob. Thanks for commenting - always nice to get a response.

      Not my first novel but my fifth (only two published so far). So, no hope for me...