A Spoke in the Wheel stands at 69,591 words, and I think it’s done. It’s gone through a ream of paper and goodness knows how many drafts.
So far, I’ve had comments from seven people on one or more of those drafts. Some were on early drafts that frankly I’m blushing to think about now. Some were on what was, up until yesterday, the very latest draft. Some of those comments have been detailed, line by line, word by word. Some have been more general. Some have been delivered in person, some via email, some over the phone. Some were on very specific aspects of the book. Some were on the thing as a whole.
(Nobody picked up on the fact that I had two Chapter 10s. Or Chapters 10. Whatever. I caught that just now.)
Some of them have me muttering, ‘Oops!’ Some of them have me muttering, shamefacedly, ‘Oh, good point.’ Some of them have me muttering, defensively, ‘Well, it works on the eschatological level!’ Some of them I just don’t agree with. Some of them flat out contradict each other.
Two novels’ worth of experiment have left me with a workable approach:
If two people whose judgement I trust make the same comment, I act on it.
One person might miss a reference or misunderstand something, or simply fail to see what I’m trying to do. But if two people say the same thing, I don’t argue.
I might not make the change that either one of them suggests. I might change something to make what I originally meant to say clearer. I might delete an entire scene to get away from it.
And I can be one of those two people. If one person’s comment has me muttering, ‘Oh, good point,’ then the chances are I’ll be changing something, even if nobody else mentions it.
And here’s the other important thing:
If someone who knows more than I do about the subject I’m writing about tells me that I’ve got something wrong, I act on it.
In this book, I’ve changed things after being advised on How Wheelchairs Work, How To Go Running, Things One Might Purchase To Improve One’s Bike, and How Prescriptions Work, among other things. No doubt there will be something that all of us have missed, and if I’m lucky it will be something as innocuous as that chapter heading, because, for a self-publisher more than anybody, the buck stops here.
That being so, I am most sincerely grateful to all my editors, beta readers, nitpickers, whatever you want to call them. Their work, their patience, their enthusiasm, their encouragement, make the writing process much less lonely and the work so much better. Without them I don’t think I’d ever finish this book. Indeed, the next thing on my list is to write the acknowledgements page.