I thought I’d completed my first novel after one year. I looked at that fourth draft and thought: Yay, I did it!
As advised by internet and friends, I promptly sent it out to a couple beta readers, nervous to let strangers inspect my precious baby–but secretly believing (deep, deep down in very depths of my ego) that they would come back with: “I love it! It’s perfect! OMG, you’re a brilliant writer!” Aaaaaand of course this didn’t happen.
Now, my beta readers did give me some nice feedback mixed in with the critique. (Just between you and me, I may have read their compliments several times and may have even gone back and opened their emails up weeks later to reread in times of woe.)
But more importantly, my awesome beta readers identified glaring problems in the plot that I’d missed. Seeing how other readers reacted to characters I’d created was invaluable (and fun!). Their suggestions for fixing scenes sent me back to the drawing board and inspired me to write some of my best chapters. And almost everything they pointed out was so obvious. Well, to everyone but me.
So it meant I had to suck it up and work on my draft. Then another and another. Two months later, I finished my sixth draft and thought: Yay, I did it! And this time I didn’t send it out to more beta readers, though I probably should. I’m going to either learn that I’m right and it’s ready–or I’m going to learn the hard way (months of rejection by lit agents) that my novel needs more work.
Update: Yeah. It needed more work.