Using the F word – a question for novelists.



I’ve used the F word several times since I started writing my novel last year.

No, not that F word. The other one, you know (whispers) finished.

I first thought I had a complete and perfectly good manuscript earlier this year. OK, it wasn’t exactly fitting into the genre I want to write in (I changed my mind towards the end) and I didn’t have the confidence to write my preferred tense but I told myself it was a great first attempt, that my next book would be better.

It took a few weeks (I am a little slow) before I realised that I’m the writer. It didn’t have to be that way. I changed the tense, cut 35,000 words from the end and crafted it into something I was genuinely proud of. It went out to Beta Readers and I’ve edited and polished until it’s as sparkly as a Christmas fairy.

‘I’ve finished,’ I announced. ‘Really, this time.’ And I thought I had. Until today.

I’ve read through the first three chapters in lieu of starting my submission package and my fingers hovered and twitched over the keyboard until I found myself changing things, again.

So my question is this. Are you ever really finished? Is there always going to be things you wish you had phrased differently, weaved into your story?

Will I ever be able to say the F word and mean it?

15 thoughts on “Using the F word – a question for novelists.

  1. Even after publication I have have found things I’d rather I’d done differently. Maybe all writers know that feeling. You have to decide I think between correcting ghastly mistakes and just tinkering. If you’re at this last stage you just have to FINISH, or you’ll go mad with frustration.

  2. I can’t speak from experience, Louise, because I’ve never finished anything. I would hope I could feel it in my bones, but maybe that’s too hopeful. I think you can always revisit a piece of writing and want to change it.

  3. I think you have to tell yourself that the tinkering will end by a certain date. For me, the decision to go indie has helped tremendously. I’ve told everyone my novel will be available at the beginning of December, so will have egg on my face if it isn’t. But it’s much harder to lay off tinkering if you’re going through the literary agent or publisher submission process. What I found, when attempting that route, was that every rejection tempted me to start footling with the MS again. Good luck.

  4. I don’t think I’ll ever be entirely satisfied. I thought I had the first three chapters locked. But I’ve been submitting to agents and getting nothing but standard rejections. So I changed my letter for one batch of submissions and then I thought, “Perhaps I should take another look at the first 3 chapters”. Which resulted in changes… I hope it brings me at least a request to see the full MS. It’s a waiting game between now and the New Year. Plus, doing this means I have no excuse not to leave it alone again and get back to book 2 (which stalled in mid-August and I’ve been avoiding ever since).

    I just know that if Book 1 ever gets published, some genius reader will say, “Did you ever think of doing X?” and I will smile at them while thinking, “ARRRGGHHH! That is brilliant!!!” and then kick myself forever.

    • I think it’s finished now but I can’t stop tinkering. Each time I look there’s something I want to change. Working on book 2 sounds like a plan – I’m doing that too. I look forward to reading your book Claire.

Thanks so much for reading!

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