Don’t be Daft: Rewrite your Draft (Part 1) by Mairead Corrigan

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Mairead Corrigan

Mairead Corrigan

… and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite.

So, here you are. Between three and six months, possibly a year or more, you have finally finished your novel. What a significant achievement, a testament to your dedication and perseverance. You’ve poured your heart and soul into this story, sacrificing your time and some of your sanity to reach this phase. And you should be immensely proud, considering the percentage of those who finish is less than 3%. You close down the laptop, take a break for a few weeks, read, and spend time with your family before you embark on the crucial editing phase, which will transform your manuscript into a polished gem ready for submission.

Wow, you say, this is better than I thought. It’s been a bit gruelling at times, but look at what you’ve achieved. You’ve taken this story to a whole new level, making it better and richer. The rewriting journey has led you to a fully formed and edited book, ready for submissions. Or so you think…

You send it off confident, maybe egotistical, maybe a little naive. And you get your first rejection. Then your second, third, and so on and so on. You’re confused and a little rattled. The story is good, isn’t it? The plot was exciting, and the characters were relatively flawed. Your setting was well-researched and descriptive. What could be the issue?

Well, many agents and publishers share this experience; they can tell when a manuscript is not ready! This is a testament to the transformative power of editing, and it’s a reason to be hopeful and optimistic about the potential of your work. But remember, brace yourself for the reality of rejection. It’s a part of the process, and it doesn’t mean your story is bad; it may mean there are better fits than this one, depending on the agent. But do not sell yourself short! It might kill you, deplete you, or even drive you a little insane to realise you need more work to do. But before you think about submitting, give your novel another look—and then another one. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll find!

As an amateur writer (a couple of competition entries, one longlist achievement, freelance history, articles here and there but no book publications yet), my naivety still gets the better—that and my sheer impatience time and time again, just dying to show what I did too early!

Every experienced writer has repeatedly told me to rewrite, sometimes up to nine drafts if I have to. The thoughts of that used to kill me. I spent five years writing my novel, and to be told that it isnt finished after all that time can be debilitating. I’d talk myself out of it all the time after each successful story ending, send the piece off, and then get rejection after rejection, and STILL wouldn’t learn my lesson.

That is until I got sick of selling myself short after rejection number twenty-seven… I think. I lost count.

I contacted Inkwell again, run by our Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin, to inquire about a manuscript assessment. As the collected, responsible and precise professional I am, I took a wee sidestep in a more straightforward direction. Of course, for the novel’s sake. Okay, I wanted the easier one; I was so tired and wanted a wave of a wand to get me to where I needed to be quicker because, of course, what did all of the experienced authors know anyway, right? Surly, I, the amateur, could succeed in what most throughout the history of writing have never been able to achieve, not the academics, scholars, or engineers with a creative streak.

Nope. That’s never been the case for any author—even the most influential ones. J. M. Coetzee is said to have written several drafts of Disgrace before it became the Booker Prize-winning sensation leading up to his Nobel Prize in literature.

You must also think of the cost. In the publishing industry, whether traditional or self-publishing, doing it right takes time, money, and time and more money! It does not just start with the literary agent, not if you really want the best chance for your work. Some people rely on their friends and family to read their book for feedback, and others pay Beta readers. If you, like me, want to make sure you’re making the best decision in the most economically friendly way towards your budget, you go to a company that offers manuscript assessments that will give you a detailed and experienced review both creatively and commercially, depending on what you want out of your piece. As with most writing services, particularly manuscript assessments, accredited companies will only take a manuscript once it has reached its third or fourth draft, sometimes more. Again, I was informed the consensus in the publishing industry is that more drafts would need to be completed before any consideration of my novel(Considering the cost per 50 pages nearly, you need to give yourself a shot. The less required editing, the better, despite any editing that needs to be done should you succeed with a publishing house).

There was nothing else for it; writing a book, a novel, would not be the structure of a staircase unless it’s the staircase from the movie The Labyrinth! I would have to get a grip on myself, calm down and get to the grit of it.

Every evening, I sighed and cursed the death of the publishing industry like a child who had been told no. Most evenings, I changed seemingly nothing until a few weeks of consistency later, I realised what I had achieved: A much more straightforward narrative for a complicated plot. The same complex plot drove me mentally up and into the walls, and I couldn’t figure out how to make it work. Now, I could bring back some subplots I felt I had to sacrifice because I had sometimes made it too complicated, and I revived a much-loved character that I did not want to kill off. Then, I took a step back, printed off my manuscript, and took another look, a new perspective. If I did another draft, I could achieve better than what I had set out to do in the first place.

I killed a few more darlings, my primary character growth was beanstalk complexity, and my ending was fire. Thus, the circle of my editing continued until my confidence peaked. My novel is now ready for submission, if only for an assessment.

But how do you do this? See Part 2 of this article.

(c) Mairead Corrigan

Read Part 2 of this article here.

About the author

Mother of Two, Mature University Student with NUIG, deferring studies and employment to focus on publishing my Novel in 2024.

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