The Secrets of Life and Death has had another round of tidies and spruces, and is back to my agent. It's been a steep learning curve. To some extent, my first drafts are just an indulgent ramble for me, to see if I fall in love with the characters or the plot. Second drafts are more considered, more with a reader in mind, expanding the plot if needed. Third drafts are for making sense, tying up loose ends, finding the pace.
Then the real work begins. Although further drafts only take weeks or even days, they are essential. Pruning figures highly, and listening to my agent has been essential. She read the book as an informed reader, rather than a friend or fellow writer. She's looking for aspects of the book that can be tightened up, focused, paced better. That's what I was hoping to get from the MA, but in the end a few concise emails have changed my writing more than the master's degree. Fellow students on the course were wonderfully generous beta readers and made a lot of 'writing' suggestions.
A last run through the hard way - read out loud - highlighted a number of bits of weak, clichéd or just repetitive writing. One week of polishing later, and off it goes for the pitching to editors. It's a relief, mostly because I'm itching to get back to Baby's Bones, which is evolving into second draft already. I'm incorporating some of the suggestions I used to good effect on Secrets, and it's working.