The End – part 2

22 May

MA receipt

A little over two weeks ago, I completed my children’s novel for my final MA submission. Although I was immensely proud of this achievement, the hand-in process was anti-climactic to say the least. I didn’t expect applause or a confetti cannon, but the woman behind the desk at the university just peered dubiously at me as I gave her two bound copies of my work. She eventually found me on the system, and printed out a scrappy receipt (see above) which, at this point, is my only proof that I’ve actually finished the MA.

Still, I took my scrappy receipt and met up with two of my fellow students for tea and cake. Although it was lovely to see them, and to find out how their own work was progressing, they were more excited about my hand-in than I was at that point. The main feeling I had was one of exhaustion, which is what comes from 25 hours of editing per week on top of a full-time job. On the train back to Leeds I struggled to stay awake. I’d arranged an evening out with friends but was seriously considering cancelling it.

I was glad I didn’t. After a few more hours, the giddiness started to kick in. I’d done it! I’d written an entire book, edited it, nurtured it, ended up talking fondly about my characters as if they were actual people, and now it was all finished. I couldn’t imagine a better way to celebrate that than with my friends, many of whom had kept me going through the rougher patches, and provided helpful advice on various drafts. I slept incredibly well that night, and for a good week or so afterwards, although it was less than ten days after hand-in that my brain started bugging me about the next novel I was going to write.

Before I start thinking about that, I wanted to reflect on the build up to hand-in and offer some advice to anyone else who’s got a submission deadline to meet.

  1. Prepare to work like you’ve never worked before! For most of the MA I’d been writing and editing for 10 to 15 hours a week. In the month or so before my deadline, that doubled, and I found myself working every day. This was tough. You need to be disciplined to sit at your laptop every evening and weekend, resisting the urge to lie on the sofa watching Netflix.

  2. Prepare anyone you live with for how hard you’ll have to work. For a short amount of time, you’ll be grumpy, boggle-eyed, and utterly unconcerned with the cleanliness of yourself or your home. Perhaps your partner or housemate might like to take a holiday for a few weeks.

  3. Ask a few people you trust to read your final (ish) draft. They’ll be able to pick out inconsistencies, plot holes, anything that jars, doesn’t make sense or seems out of character. You’ve probably read your work so many times that you’ve become blind to errors.

  4. Do a final proofread using a printed copy of your work. You’ll be amazed at how many changes you want to make when you see your novel on paper. A friend of mine reads his final draft on Kindle to get the same effect.

  1. Any academic work accompanying your writing will take longer than you expect. I allowed myself one weekend to complete a reflective commentary, but the appendices alone took several hours, as I had to find examples from previous drafts to demonstrate my editing process.

  2. Celebration is a wonderful thing, but postpone it by a few days if you can, so you’re less zombie-like and can enjoy it more.


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