I have officially finished writing my novel. Break out the champagne! Time to celebrate!
Though perhaps not just yet.
As any writer knows, no-one actually ever finishes writing a novel. They just move on to a new round of revisions.
And so it is, with my book, a YA historical adventure called The Time Travel Chronicles: Secrets of the Nile. I have edited it myself too many times to count. My family members have all read it – twice. I have had a dozen sessions with a mentor and put my edited work through a Manuscript service. Now, following revisions suggested by all these readers, the ‘finished’ manuscript is with two more readers, “just to be sure”. When they’ve finished and given me their suggestions, I have a couple more people I want to send it to.
But where does it end? When is enough enough? Somewhere between dashing a work out of my head and revising it till I’m in my grave – that’s my problem.
When is the right time to stop fiddling and launch it, out into into the world? To begin the long haul of sending it to agents and publishers where – if I’m lucky (and it’s a big If) – I’ll be one of the few chosen from a slush pile you could see from space, and they will want still more revisions to be done.
Someone once said writing was all about rewriting. I totally get that now.
Although somehow my editing due diligence is starting to feel a bit like procrastination. Like an overprotective mother, scared to let their baby out into the world, I’ve been putting off the dreaded day when the rejections begin to roll in, building to a pile, then a mountain. The Mount Everest of rejections.
Which is all part of being a writer I know, but…
I started writing this book when my twin daughters, Zephyr and Mistral, were in primary school. This year, they’re in university. So it has been quite a journey – and not just for my characters. In the meantime, I’ve gone on to write books 2, 3 and 4 in the series and to start work on book 5. And yet, still, I keep finding reasons to delay going “out there” to see if anyone wants to represent, publish or read the series.
Seven years and four books later, there’s so much more riding on my success. I am truly terrified that all the work I’ve done, all the time and love I’ve invested, might be in vain. The odds are against a first-time writer landing an agent or publisher.
So what’s the story?
Escaping the pain of family break-up and awkward romance, Riley and Madison, 15, set off through history in the world’s first Time Machine. As they meet the locals, they use their modern knowledge to solve ancient problems – with devastating effect. Meanwhile, a villain from the future pursues them through time, hoping to steal time travel technology for their own ends and trap them in the past forever. How will the pair survive? Who will they fall for along the way? And what will happen to the world as a result?
I’ve set them down in my favourite periods in history and had the best time researching and ferreting out gory details from each era (check out gongfermor from the medieval period, scent cones from Ancient Egypt, and everything in barrels on a pirate ships). Book One is set in Egypt, book two in medieval England, book three in the wild west of America, book four in the pirate era. Book five will be partly in Edo Japan, partly in the future.
I love all my characters – the outspoken passionate Maddy, the charming geeky Riley, the provocative jester, the slippery, but sexy pirate, the haughty Egyptian prince and the brave, fun cowboys and cowgirls on the range. They’ve come to feel like real people to me. Rejection for my work will feel like rejection for them, which will, in some ways, be harder to bear.
It’s an epic story and writing it has been an epic experience for me.
But now, it’s time for a new adventure; finding a publisher. At a time when bookshops all over the world are closing their doors. When publishers inboxes are bursting with new material but they are forced to downsize. When there have never been more writers competing for an audience, yet attention spans are shrinking and reading is in decline.
It’s a quest that requires courage and faith; it may be full of disappointment and heartbreak. Or exquisite joy.
In this story, I’m my own heroine and I have no control over the ending.
Wish me luck.
Cover art by Tash Turner-Cohen