I finished a new draft of a very old novel a month ago. My first novel, actually.
And here there should be klaxons. Your first novel is a sad, misshapen baby that you back slowly away from, whispering “What have I done?” before you lock it in a drawer, and eat the key, and put the drawer on a submarine, and sink the submarine, and eat the map to the submarine, and kill anyone who knows about submarines.
So it goes for first novels. They are a thing you forget, not a thing you edit.
Anyway, I edited my first novel, a kid’s book called The Glass Dragon. I thought I could make it good, seventeen years after I wrote it, now a whole other person with whole other hair. And … I kind of did. I eradicated side-plots, removed unneeded characters, sent words flying like shards of toe-nail before a date. I made it, if not amazing, then at least pretty okay.
When it was done, I said – Yes! It is done. I will never need to edit this again. And so, with that level of confidence, I sent it out to twenty literary agents. Who all said no. Or nothing, which is the default stance for literary agents.
Then I let some people read it, and got the feedback that maybe – maybe – it was a tad too long and wordy for kids. So I took this book that could no longer be edited, and edited away seventeen thousands bloody words. Fifty pages. Without changing anything.
Which leaves me with a much better, tighter book, but no agents to send it to, since I used them all up on the previous submission round. But I learned me a lesson. A really good, solid lesson I would never forget. And it was … hang on … um … something about submarines.
(And, hey, buy my new book, Hollow Oaks! Is very nice. And it has leprechauns.)