This is what I learned:
1. I second-guessed myself too much in this last draft. I changed things I thought were too rough or boring, only to find out that instead I changed what was organic and charming into cold, card, streamlined, plot-pushing story that seems rushed.
2. Beta readers are essential for catching the obvious things that I couldn’t. Apparently in one scene, I mention that the main character doesn’t know a particular fact. But later, she says that fact out loud as if she’s known it all her life. Whoops. Beta readers help me see the forest for the trees.
3. I need to listen to my writer’s heart/instinct more. There were some things I changed in the story because of advice I heard from well-experienced writers and agents. I believed them. But they were wrong on a lot of things. Just goes to show how subjective the publishing business is. From now on, I’m going to take their advice with a few more grains of salt, and trust my instinct as a reader.
Where do I go from here?
I’ve picked out a few points of action to apply from each of my beta readers’ feedback. And I’ve numbered them in importance and will work from number one until the end to revise my book. It shouldn’t take me more than a few weeks.
Then I’ll write some query letters to the agents I’ve been researching, and send them out.
Then I wait for their response with agony.
But while I wait, I’m going to be writing some short stories and outlining my next book. The work, I’m beginning to realize, is never done.