Never ready

Hey cHEwY gum gums

A great thing happened last week. I finished my manuscript for ‘Don’t Follow Vee’ (working title) and popped it to my editor. I get a mix of feelings when I do this.

Joyful, because I finally handed it in and I feel that heavy deadline weight being lifted off my shoulders. Dazed, because now I don’t know what to do. Should I start something completely new? Or dust off an old project? Turns out I’m doing both hehe.

Nervous, because now I have to wait to see if my editor likes it or not. It usually takes a few weeks, so the longer I wait, the more nerve-wrecking it is. Not everything I send gets the green light, so I never take this part for granted.

I was at a school in Melbourne last week and met an aspiring writer/teacher. She had this great concept and wrote a middle-grade story. She sent to an agent who read the first 50 pages and wanted more. The agent told her to send the rest.

The aspiring writer promised to send it.

That was a year and a half ago.

So now my new writer/teacher friend finds herself in limbo. Why is she still stalling after all this time? Apart from the usual suspects that robs people from their writing time (job and family commitments), the other major factor was that she felt that her manuscript wasn’t ready yet.

I tread a similar path with Thai-riffic! Firstly when Leonie Tyle, who was editor for UQP at the time (and judge of a pitching comp) wanted me to finish Thai-riffic! and send it to her. Six months and numerous drafts later, she had already moved on from UQP. Doh! I had a second chance with my now-agent Brian Cook, who liked Thai-riffic! and wanted to read the rest of my manuscript. It took me another 9 months before I handed the whole thing to him. So why so long? Because it was my first manuscript, I wanted it to be perfect. So I know how it feels.

The truth is, the manuscript is never ready.

Now I have some hindsight. The manuscript is not meant to be perfect. The editor will still tear it apart (this is good, trust me) and the real work will begin when you edit, refine and polish until the story evolves into a published book. Deadlines are great because it stops me procrastinating. I tell myself I’d better have a decent manuscript by the time a book is due haha. However, it doesn’t mean that I hand in something half-baked. If alarm bells are ringing and I am truly stuck, I will call my agent and editor and let them know that the manuscript is not ready yet.

So how you get rid of those doubts in your head? The voices that say, ‘come on, do another draft or wait another month.’ You can never shake them, so live with those doubts. I am fully aware that my Don’t Follow Vee manuscript still needs a lot of work. But it’s at a point where I’m satisfied with it. Of course, I do have an agent who reads my work before I send it to the publisher, so I do have a safety net haha. So I think you can use those safety nets too, like professional manuscript assessors, mentors, writer friends or groups to give you some encouragement. But at the end of the day, only you will know when it’s right.

One last thing. Another reason why the aspiring writer/teacher was hesitating to send her manuscript out was because she didn’t have a proper ending. I think endings are important, but come on, I mean the agent she sent it to read the first 50 pages. You’ll be lucky if they read the first page. So the writer must be onto a winner. My original Thai-riffic! manuscript had a iffy ending too, that was replaced later on. Unless you’ve really messed up the climax of your story, don’t worry too much about it. I mean, what’s the worst that can happen? They’ll ask you to re-send it with a stronger ending, with suggestions. That’s all.

Agents, editors and publishers have their ears tuned in for a voice. They’re looking for a genuine character with heart. You win them there and they’ll follow you until the very end.

So trust yourself. Send out the manuscript anyway. Of course, tidy up all those little typos and stuff first. Forget never ready, there’s nothing worse than a manuscript that is never sent.

O.W