When is a novelist’s job complete?

Yes, when is a novelist’s job complete?

That’s a tricky, almost unanswerable question, up there with ‘what is the sound of one hand clapping?’ or Bishop Berkeley’s old chestnut about the tree falling and no one being around to hear it. It’s an important question and doubly important for collaborators because you need to know when your collaboration is at an end.

One hand clapping. Can you hear it?

So, what’s the answer?

When the final chapter is finished

That’s seems a sensible answer on the face of it. You’ve written a novel, alternating chapters or handling different characters and, at some point, every chapter has been written and if you gave it to another human being they could read it from beginning to end and it would be a complete story.
BUT…
That’s your first draft, isn’t it? Or maybe it’s your second or third. You’ve written something but it’s not the completed product that you want to share with your reading public.

When the novel has been edited and rewritten to your satisfaction

So, the collaboration will have to carry on until the editing process is complete. You will either need to work with a third party on the editing or collaboratively edit the novel together. Now, you have a story that you’re actually proud of and will win the praise and sales you’ve been dreaming of.
BUT…
It’s still full of typos, isn’t it? The story’s great but it’s littered with those commonplace but nonetheless unforgiveable errors that would mark you out as a complete amateur.

When the novel is proof-read

You will probably do a lot of proof-reading yourself but it’s always a good idea to get someone else to check for those errors that you will just gloss over in your re-reading. Maybe you have a trusted friend, or an army of beta- readers, or perhaps (quite wisely) you decide to employ someone to proof-read your manuscript so that it finally shines.
BUT…
The manuscript won’t magically sell itself. Sure, it’s beautiful but if you do nothing with it then no one’s going to read it.

When you get an agent

So, you either need to convince your current agent to sell your novel to the publishing world or find an agent who will. If you’re collaborating is there going to be a problem if you have separate agents (that’s a whole other can of worms to be discussed elsewhere) or if you don’t have the same great working relationship with the agent? If you’re seeking an agent, then the writing of query letters, plot synopses and deciding who to approach is another set of tasks to be divided up between you. But once you’ve secured an agent, it can all be left in the lap of the gods.
BUT…
That’s nonsense. Even if your agent instantly finds you a golden contract with the most amazing publisher, there’s still a lot of input required from the writers.

When the book is published

So, you’ve gone through the traditional publishing route. Your agent has found you a publisher and secured a contract. You’ve had a lot of meetings with the publishing house’s editor, rewritten bits, discussed formats, looked at artwork and seen the whole thing off to the printers.
BUT…
Now, you really need to SELL your book. To the public.

When you’ve finished the book signing tour and given every interview, workshop and seminar imaginable

Yes, surely, now your work is done. Having been chained at the wrist to your collaborator for far longer than you possibly imagined (but in a nice way, honest), you have done your utmost to sell your collaborative effort to the reading public and possibly, just possibly, made a bit of money. It’s been a rollercoaster ride but finally your collaborative journey is at and end and your job is complete.
BUT…
If it has sold some copies, isn’t there scope for more collaborative projects? A sequel, perhaps?

Posted in 2012, Writing Tagged with: , , ,
3 comments on “When is a novelist’s job complete?
  1. Sarah says:

    Would you both do the whole thing again? Either with each other or someone else?

  2. Iain Grant says:

    Absolutely, Sarah!
    I had said to Heide I was only willing to work on another collaborative Clovenhoof once we'd sold oodles of copies of the first but, right now, I'm keen to launch into the sequel straight away. The collaborative process was a lot of fun.
    I'm also making crazy plans for a multi-person collaborative thriller. It might be crazy brilliant or just plain crazy.

  3. Heide says:

    Sarah, I'd echo Iain's comment. It was so much fun to do that I really missed it when we finished.