Countdown: Seven…

They say (“they” being writers, or anyone who has an opinion on the subject of being one, half-way informed or not) that there are certain benchmarks to be reached that indicate just how much of a Real Live Writer you truly are.

Writing Every Day is one of them.

Being Published (according to what other people consider that to mean) is another.

Being Rejected For Being Published is too.

Hopefully those aren’t a cumulative requirement, because at the moment I probably score about one-and-a-half out of three, and the one is in the rejection column. There are probably a whole lot of other criteria that I don’t qualify for either, but I don’t want to rain too much shit on myself so let’s draw a line under that for now.

Anyway, regardless of how seriously one might be taken as a writer, there are also considered to be certain benchmarks that indicate how close to finished a novel is. Writing The End on a page isn’t the last one, not by a long shot. For just under two months I’ve been “officially” editing the manuscript I submitted last October, and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read my own story in that time.

First came the content editing. We did three full passes over the text, adding in here, taking out there–we discovered a gigantic no-no with one week to go (I’d contravened cardinal story-world rules) and had to scramble for a fix at the very last minute (found one!). It’s work, sure, but it’s still fun because it’s as much writing as anything else.

Next came line editing, and that’s a different kettle of fish altogether. Whereas the content editor was looking at the story, the line editor targeted mistakes and inconsistencies in grammar, formatting, all that good stuff. Instead of the larks of the previous weeks, now I had to read the whole thing line by line, comma by comma, to ensure I hadn’t secretly torn any pages out of the Chicago Manual of Style.

So I did.

A week ago I’d made the required changes, challenged the edits I didn’t agree with and sent it back for the line editor to review. She processed the changes and sent it back so I could read it all over again.

So I did.

And all was good! The manuscript was okayed and sent on to be transformed into the final version, ready for consumption. All that left was… the copy edit. One more pass before it goes to “press”, to make sure that nothing slipped through all the other times.

So I will.

But I have to say, after all that reading of my beloved story, I hate that thing now. Just the notion of going over it one more time makes my stomach turn and my skin crawl.

And THAT is how you know your novel is almost finished.

Either that, or you blink and discover the manuscript lying on the floor in a pool of lighter fluid, a lit match in your shaking hand… thank god for ebooks, eh?

Substitute a lap top for that printer and you’ve just about got the way I now feel about flipping the screen up and reading my god-damned novel one more time.

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