For the first time ever, I have dared to take the time to add the final gloss to a manuscript. I took the decision to ask the agent to hold fire for a day or two, while I sit down and consciously read the whole book (The Secrets of Life and Death) out loud, with a red pen in my hand. The book looks very different in paperback, and I am coming at it as a critical reader rather than as a panicky writer.
There aren't any major mistakes. Most of what I am doing is improving the writing, adding a layer of polish, while picking up the odd error. It's a lot more reassuring than I expected it to be, as mostly (for the first time), it feels consistent, sharp, edgy, well paced. I don't write very positively about my writing, and even less so about this particular book, but now I'm pleased with it. I don't want an editor to pick it up, see three or four less than smart phrases, or dialogue that doesn't flow, and start to build up an image of a book that isn't all that well written. I know the story works for some readers, but with the help of readers and editors I haven't just chased down mistakes but gained confidence in critiquing my own writing.
So, thank you to those people who have been enormously supportive and helpful, and I hope the final version (which will be finished early next week, just in time for the agent to come back) reflects all the time and energy that has gone into it. I feel like this is my 'training book', writing A Baby's Bones is so much easier and the first draft was so much better. Even if it doesn't get published, it has made me more able to do every stage of writing a novel.