When done is not done

John Donne, the 17th century metaphysical poet, wrote in his poem A Hymn to God the Father:

When thou hast done, thou hast not done,

For I have more.

In the poem he’s talking about the amount of flaws and sins he possesses – much like one of my manuscripts. When you’re writing a book, done never seems to mean done. Back in August of this year, I completed my latest novel, Tales of the Ancient Rabbits. But just because it was finished didn’t mean it was done.

I read over the manuscript to make sure it all hung together as a proper story. But that still wasn’t done.

I completed a second draft, going through every word and making quite a few substantial changes. That still wasn’t done.

Earlier today, I completed the final draft. Final draft, eh? Must be done now!


Now I’ve got the manuscript in a suitable state, I can start to think about submitting it. Which means that the process is most certainly not done. Most agents, publishers and competitions ask for a synopsis of the book: a short, usually one- or two-page document giving an outline of the entire book from beginning to end. When you’ve just finished a 37,000-word book, a single page of 500-700 words shouldn’t take long, should it? Ha! The synopsis is the hardest single page of the entire project. It’s taken me hours and hours to get the words down – then even longer to cut the document down to a single page.

And I’m still not done.

I need to prepare files containing sample chapters for submission to agents – most ask for three chapters/10,000 words, so I’ve got a Word file containing the first three chapters that clocks in at 9,999 words according to Word’s word-count – I’ll admit I cheated slightly and chopped a few words out to make sure the submission wasn’t arbitrarily discarded for exceeding the 10,000-word limit that a lot of agents set. Then I produced a two-chapter variation of the same sample.

Done? Not yet! I’m planning on entering the Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition this year with Tales of the Ancient Rabbits, which has an addition requirement for entry: a chapter-by-chapter plot plan. Paradoxically, while this is longer than the synopsis (you’re allowed a couple of sentences per chapter) it was actually quicker to write than the synopsis.

Done? Nope! I’ve still got to write a covering letter for the competition, and a covering email for my submission to an agent. Once I’ve done that, and printed and packaged and posted and emailed my submissions, I’ll have finished. Sort of. What I’ll really have done is started the whole submission process of sending my novel around agents to try to find a home for it.

Done never really seems to mean done, does it?


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