Phew. I made the deadline and delivered the first draft of my new novel this week. I have no idea how good, or bad, it is. That's not false modesty, or disingenuousness; I genuinely don't know. Before I send it, I always print out the first draft because hard copy reads differently from the words on the screen. I don't know why that should be, but that's how it seems to me. No matter how many times I go over and over the text on screen - and I am a constant self-editor - I want to see it in the cold, hard light of day.
So I print out, only single-spaced so it looks more like a finished page in a book, rather than the double-spaced manuscript that publishers and agents want to see. Then I edit again on paper, as the world's most critical reader.
As such, I find some parts are better than I expected - and some are far worse. It's much easier to judge the pace and the amount of attention given to various aspects of the story when it's on paper. It may be different for other people, but this is how it is for me. I thought I had wrapped up the ending quite well, but last Sunday I ended up not doing a light polish of the text as I'd hoped, but writing 2,300 additional words to expand what now seemed rushed.
At this stage the book has taken over all rational thought. I consider the mundane necessities of life like going to the supermarket to be outrageous intrusions. I resent leaving my desk to answer the door or the telephone. All I can think about are the loose ends: the tiny plot and character issues that need to be tied up, the small mentions that ought to be recalled for proper satisfaction. I scribble these down on bits of ripped paper, newspaper, anything and put them in a pocket for decoding later.
At the end of this process, I make the changes on screen. It still seems extraordinary to be able to fit an entire book in a computer document, attach to an email and press send. It took me a whole day to print out my first novel, put it in the box the computer paper had come in, parcel up and take it to the post office!
So now I wait. (That part hasn't changed.) My editor in New York told me immediately that she is immersed in another project for the next few weeks, so not to expect a response for a while. I couldn't be happier. That's a fortnight's relaxation and decompression at least. As regular readers know, I have had a tough time to write through but now the pressure has lifted. It feels like a long time since the story began with a new place to explore and random observations in a notebook.