When you think your book is ready for the world – but it’s not

Novel draft rejection

Goddammit. It had all been going so well on the novel draft. The beta feedback came back. Better than I expected. Three readers. Three thumbs up. A few tweaks here and there, but overall, the results were positive. Good storyline, good characters, good book. Or so I thought.

That was before I sought the professional advice. Before I got the audit done on my synopsis and first chapters. Before I sat down and really discussed my book with someone who does this for a living. In the publishing world like. A professional.

So the good news first. Well I can write. I have a voice. I have story line. I have plot. All essential components if you want to piece together a good book. This is positive. I’d be worried if the news came back now that I was lacking in the gifted word department. It’d be a bit like one of those crows on X-Factor, face falling as Simon Cowell and the rest of them snigger.

So I don’t have to let go of my publishing dream. Not yet anyway. What I do need to work on is structure.

I thought I had things pretty planned out. I even have a page stuck on my notice board that looks like the FTSE 100, up and down, in a graph line, showing the ebb and flow of my story. I planned that man. I sat down and thought about it.

But, as with all things the first time you try them, you’re going to make mistakes. This is the first time I’ve ever written a whole proper book. Do you know how many elements go in to making a good, proper, readable book? And not just readable, we’re searching for unputtdownable. Some of my writing was lovely. But it’ll probably have to go.

Structure isn’t just the scaffolding of the story. It’s the whole flow of your book, how things are told, how characters are introduced, what we learn about them, when.

As I’m writing historical fiction, I’ve spanned the story out across my main character’s lifetime. This pace can be difficult to get right, because you’re trying to capture memorable dramatic moments, while moving things along. You have to choose what to put in – how fast to do this. I’ve broken the novel into parts where I move things forward a lot, most notably towards the end. And in my gut, as I was writing the first draft, I knew that I was rushing things. That I was finishing to get to the end, to say, I’m done. Not because it was in the best interests of the story, or the book.

I might have too much plot. I certainly have parts where not a lot happens and then too much happens towards the end. It was the number one question I had for my beta readers and this is a sure sign that I myself was not happy with it.

I am disappointed. Not necessarily deflated, because I think it’s all fixable. The question is, do I want to keep going? Is it too much work to go back and restructure the whole book, to move things around, chop chunks out, write more, finesse? I thought I had achieved that already. Should I start my second book, learn from my mistakes, plan the next one out much better?

It seems a shame to throw away a year and a half’s work and an edited manuscript, because it’s too much work to get it right.

But can I face what needs to be done?

I could take a break, leave it sit there, think about it and when I can look at it again, sit down and write out each chapter structure and then look at what’s working or what isn’t.

I feel near, yet so very far away.

I feel like I’m learning a lesson, that books are not written in mere weeks, but in months of drafting and redrafting of thinking and sifting and seeking advice.

Do I want to tell this story that bad? Are the characters eating away at me enough to keep going?

I don’t know. They certainly are real to me, I can see them in front of me if I close my eyes tight enough. I know their inner thoughts, I can hear the inflections when they speak.

Does the audience, my audience need to meet them too?

I’ll let you know. Right now, I’m going off to read, to drink tea and think.

Nobody said it was going to be easy, right?


You read my previous post here about how I was feeling after sending my book out to beta readers. I used The Inkwell Group to have an agent submission assessment done. They also offer a reader’s report, which takes a look at the whole structure of your book. Guess I should have gone with that first! More Goddammits!

December Girl is now available on Audio. Visit Amazon or Audible or click on the cover below to download.

December Girl audiobook

9 Comments on When you think your book is ready for the world – but it’s not

  1. Oh, Nikki, my heart goes out to you. You’re so brave to put it out there and get the professional assessment – though remember – it’s only one person’s opinion, even if it is one person who’s in the business. I was totally at this stage a while ago – do I throw it out and start again, or do I make something of it even if a professional thinks it’s not quite what it needs to be? A third option, if you can bear to throw some more money at it, might be to get a developmental editor to look at it – they’d give you help with the structure and the flow and where you need to slow down and where you need to hurry it along. (I will not volunteer my services because I’m really more of a line editor. I’m better at the sentences than the big picture.)
    Don’t rush your decision. Listen to your heart. Don’t think of any of it as wasted time: it’s all a huge giant learning experience, and you know so much more now than when you started, right?

    • Yes to everything you said! I think I need to take a long look at it before I’d go to an editor. I know myself where the problems lie I think, I was just hoping with my glossy writing, they wouldn’t be noticed so much! Have to go with my gut too. It may not be as much work as I think, I just need to sit down and start from scratch with it. That’s what’s killing me. But I’m loathe to put something out that’s not the absolute best I can make it. Oh this writing lark! Why do we do it to ourselves! I also needed to blog it- to get my thoughts straight ; )

  2. Tough call. Do you have another story in your head that’s waiting impatiently for a turn? It’s hard to know whether it’s better to do something else and come back to this in a while with fresh motivation and perspective, or go for the satisfaction of getting it all polished and completed before moving on to a new project. Maybe your gut is what will tell you which way to go…

    • Both, do have a second one, but it’s not developed yet. I think I’ll have to finish this and send it out to the world. Come what may ; )

  3. Well, let me tell you that if you’ve come this far, you certainly have the strength to go to the end.

    I’ve been working to my trilogy for 6 years now. I’m about to start revising my first nove once more (I think this might be the 8th time, but really I’ve lost count), because it happened the same thing as to you: beta readers happy, lots of good thoughts about it, but when I submitted it I had to realise it isn’t good enough for publishing. Though it is good enough for agent to shift their answer once I went through it once more.

    But I agree with you: you’ll do this only if you love the characters and the story. I do mine, working with them is always a joy, no metter if I have to go thorugh the story for yet another time. So yes, do think hard whether you’re eager to spend time (and it might be yaers, you know) with them, or if you have a story in your heart that might be more satisfying for you.

    The better advice I can give is: if you had to spend two more years with this story and this characters, will you still be happy?
    My answer for my story is, hell, yes! I’m sorry to think that one day this story will be done and I won’t spend more time with these characters. It’s a thoguht that makes me sad. But in the meantime, I’m having a lot of fun with them.

    Know what I mean?

    • Thanks so much for your detailed thoughts Sarah. (Sorry for late reply) Wow, you have been working such a long time, but that’s the test isn’t it? Yes, I think I could work with these characters for years still, so that’s a good sign. Interesting that the beta readers came back with good feedback, but for industry standards, it needs more work. Think it means there is something there – it just needs finesse! We will keep going anyway. We don’t have a choice really!

  4. I know it’s hard, but at least you have a way to move forward. Have a break. Have a Kit Kat And then roll up your sleeves and get going. You know you have a good idea and the means to bring it to reality. Keep the faith.

    • Thank you Derbhile. Still on that break. Messing up my writing room so I have no urge to go in there – self sabotage! But I’ve a new book on the way to help with structure and going to put time in over the next few weeks. Hopefully it won’t be so bad when I get stuck in.

  5. Hi after my first draft of The Cinderella Reflex I knew it wasn’t quite right but I wasn’t sure why. I was in a very good writers group and had my beta-reader feedback the same as you. One day I listed all the chapters with a few lines of what happened in each chapter. Well it was a revelation! I could see straight away in black and white what was wrong. Things like he second chapter had too much irrelevant information which was holding up the story and needed to be scrapped. And like your book, I was leaving too few chapters at the end to resolve everything. This made such a big difference for me that I’d advise you to try it first before you make any decisions. Now I outline like crazy first and work in Scrivener too so I can see all the red flags BEFORE I’ve written thousands of superfluous words. Phew! Best of luck with it ????

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