So, here we are again, another update on Project #3. It’s been a few months since I’ve written about Project #3 and, last I wrote, it was all about getting ruthless. The bulk of the work had been done, what was written was written, and it was time to get those unnecessary words, sentences, paragraphs, and even scenes out of the manuscript. It was time to start being as objective as I could possibly be, time to start looking at my manuscript as something that’s been created and now needs its refinement. It is a time that comes for all manuscripts when you’re heading down the publishing route. It doesn’t matter if you’re going for traditional publishing or not, when you get to this stage and you feel like there’s no more to be written, then it’s time for the refinement. I certainly don’t believe it’s the easiest part of being a writer, but then what is easy about creating?
Now, let’s be brutally honest: have I cut out all the words I was hoping to? Admittedly, not quite. I’m still a few thousand out from where I’d like to be. I’ve tried being harsh and I’ve carved what I can out of this novel, attempting to be as objective about the work I have created as possible, but could I carve more? It’s likely, of course it is. However, I think that work will now come from an outside perspective. You can be the most ruthless author in all the land, but I still think second, third, and fourth opinions are necessary for any work you want to put out into the world. It’s true you know your work best, but it’s also true that an outside perspective can tell you things about your novel that you would never be able to see yourself. Will a few more thousand words need to go? I couldn’t say, but I’m sure I could find someone who could.
Ultimately, it’s really important to be objective with your works. For me, I believe you’re the least objective when you’re creating, when you’re in those early drafts and you’re trying to create a fully realised piece of work. Once that’s done, you have the opportunity to take a step back. Stepping back can allow you to think about what parts are the weakest, what parts are strong, what parts need to go, and what needs more? Personally, that’s the easiest to do once the manuscript is in a more completed state.
But that doesn’t mean being ruthless is easy. Honestly, I think I am pretty good at it, I think I have mentioned before that I don’t find it horrendously difficult seeing words and sentences that need to go. But I also believe I could be better at it. Of course I love my work, of course I love the words that I’ve written, the characters I’ve created, the scenes that I’ve conjured, and that makes being objective difficult. I do believe that’s why having outside opinions are so important. I haven’t had anyone else read this work yet, and although it can certainly be daunting to give your work to someone else and ask them what they think from a critical standpoint where you’re asking for refinement and criticism, it’s crucial. I don’t think your work can reach a true strength unless other people have seen it, unless other people have taken a look and offered critiques. Now, critiques should obviously come from a constructive standpoint, someone should never just say, hey, this is terrible, without offering a way to make it better. Constructive criticism is valuable and it’s something all creatives need. Some people really struggle to hear what is weak in their pieces of art, but if you want your work to be strong and if you want your works to be better, you have to be open to criticism. But it’s really important that, if you’re offering criticism, it has to be constructive. You can’t just tell someone something’s bad and then move on with your life. That’s not helpful at all.
Being honest yet again, I think the work is almost to a point where I, alone, can take it no further. What this means is that we’re down to this big question now, a question that I reach at the end of every draft, and that question is: what’s next? Previously, I’ve been able to answer that by saying, there’s still sections I know need work, or by saying, okay, I need to look into this some more, do some research, and then strengthen this section of the manuscript. Usually, that question is answered by saying, yeah, what we need next is another draft.
This time, the answer feels a little different. Are artworks ever finished? That’s a bigger debate than I’m prepared to get in to. I don’t believe art is abandoned, but I do believe there comes a point where you can no longer refine a work given where you are in your life, given the abilities you currently possess. Sometimes that means leaving a work and returning to it a few (or many) moons later, and sometimes that means it’s at a point where it’s time to share it, or at least start towards the process of sharing it. Does that mean it can’t be improved? I don’t think I believe that; perfection doesn’t exist after all. But what it does mean is that you reach a point where either you’re comfortable with people seeing it or you know you can no longer refine it alone and you need other people to see it to move it further towards the strongest piece it can be.
I can’t say for sure what will happen next. Is it finished? That involves asking a mightier question about whether art can ever truly be finished in the first place. But am I content with it? I’d say very, and that means that it’s time to move it along. Will it get in the hands of perhaps an editor or two and they demand changes be made? I can’t say that for sure. Will it be published next week? Who knows, though I will admit, that seems rather unlikely.
At this stage, even though I feel near the end of the book’s completion, there’s almost more questions than when I began the novel, regarding publishing processes and the world of editors and agents. But I think it’s exciting. There’s still work to be done, I am not ignorant of that, but I’m eager to see what happens next, and I’m excited to see this novel moving its way along. The thought of, one day, holding a novel of my own in my hands is what’s fuelling me. I know there’s still many more steps between now and then, but for me, it’s important to have goals to reach for, and I’m looking forward to the day this goal will be reached because, right now, it’s closer than it’s ever been.