Not so long ago there was an interview in a Sunday paper with the crime-writer Ian Rankin. Asked how he knew when he’d got to the end of a novel he was writing, he said, ‘When I get to the deadline.’
Oh, I remember that so well – the publisher’s given you a deadline, it’s in your contract, so you know that’s when you’ve got to stop, mentally write ‘The End’ at the foot of your manuscript and send it on its way.
I also know full well that if there’s no deadline, it’s very easy just to keep on eternally re-writing and re-writing. I suspect no writer is ever truly satisfied with what he/she has written. There is always room for improvement. Only too often I’d send a manuscript to my publisher, while really rather hoping they’d ask for dramatic revisions, so I could have another go at it in the hope of getting it right at last. But they never did – small tweaks, yes, but never anything major.
And that’s the joy of converting your back titles into ebooks – it’s your chance to have another go at re-writing your novel, in the hope that this time you’ll feel a bit happier about it.
That explains why my historical novel ‘Disordered Land’ is taking so long to be converted to an ebook. It was a book that took over my life, off and on, for more than ten years, taking on many different forms before I was finally faced with the publisher’s deadline.
Once published, it gathered some decent reviews, and I even had a letter from a reader who thought it the best novel about the English Civil War that he’d ever read. But even then I knew it wasn’t quite how I wanted it to be.
Now, re-reading it eighteen years later, I think I’ve a clearer idea of where it falls down. I can see its flaws, and I’m itching to put them right. This time I want to do it properly, so that at the end I’m as satisfied with it as I can ever hope to be.