Making it fit for anyone to read is quite another thing – more months of editing, editing again, polishing, re-editing, re-polishing. Maybe even giving the manuscript to a friend for their opinion, only to have them say ten weeks later, “Sorry, I've been, like, really busy. I'll read it soon, promise.”
But then comes the difficult bit. If you want your book published (though there's certainly no law forcing you to want that) you have to pluck up the courage to submit it somewhere. OK, so you could spend the rest of your life shifting commas about because you're scared of rejection – that's no skin off anyone else's nose – but if you want to see it in print, you have to send it out.
So... let's say you've written a book, agonised over the synopsis, constructed an elegant covering letter, formatted your first three chapters to perfection and printed them off, because lots of agents still don't take email submissions. Next comes the most important part of the process:
- Go to your office stationery cupboard when no one is looking and select two good-quality envelopes.
- Print one of them as an S.A.E. or, better still, write it out with a lucky pen.
- To be on the safe side, consult a graphology website and ensure your handwriting makes you look artistic, intelligent, a delight to work with, and not insane.
- Address the other envelope, put your submission into it and seal it up.
- Unseal it to make sure the S.A.E. is definitely there.
- Stick it back down with a piece of sellotape, because the glue now doesn't work.
- Oh, God, what if the agent really hates sellotape? Check their website in case they mention it.
- Affix postage, go to the postbox and nervously walk up and down for a while, worrying whether you have put the synopsis in the right place. You put it after the letter and before the sample chapters. But what if it should have gone at the end?
- Approach the postbox. Discover that it was designed before the advent of A4, so you have to bend your pristine envelope in half.
- Oh God, what if the agent really hates creased envelopes? What if she sees the creases and just slings it straight in the bin?
- Gormlessly stand there for a while with your hand halfway into the postbox.
- Will yourself to let go. Think: Just post it. Drop. The. Envelope. Go on, just drop it. Seriously. Drop it. No, seriously. Arrgh! Just POST IT! Just let go! NOW!
- Wait! The S.A.E. is definitely in there, isn't it?
- Of course it is. You checked.
- But what if, when you checked, you actually took it out and forgot to put it back in?
- FOR GOD'S SAKE, JUST POST IT!
- Someone behind you coughs impatiently, so let go and listen to the envelope flopping into the darkness, beyond your control. Go pale as you have a sudden flashback to proofreading the submission letter.
- Rush back to your computer and open up the file. See that it begins “Der Ms Bloggs.”
- Go very red and start to weep.
- Correct it and send to the next agent. And the next, and the next, while writing another book.
And if you really, really want to be published, keep sending until you get an acceptance or you die. Whichever comes first.