I finished the fourth, and I hope final, draft of Welcome to the Fold earlier today. Rather than ration out what was left of the edits over the next couple of days, I just decided to sit down and finish everything in one marathon session, and it worked out better that way.
In truth, it's not completely finished. I collected a short sheaf of notes from draft 4, meaning that I have to go back and make some more changes here and there — including adding a couple of small scenes that were suggested by my editor, and which made sense to include.
Still, the bulk of the work is done, and all the major manuscript surgery is finished. Everything from here on out is recovery room, post-op stuff.
I'm still not happy with it. I don't think I'm ever going to be completely happy with a book, because there's forever going to be a gap between the free-floating image of it in my mind and all those words on paper. You know this one: the unwritten book is forever perfect, because it doesn't exist. But people can't read a Platonic ideal, and the only thing that sets apart someone who says "I have a great idea for a story!" and an actual author is the fact that the latter has a finished ms. and the former does not. But I got most of the way there, and most of the way there is better than none of the way there.
Next comes marketing, and that is going to be at least as hard. The book is best classified as a psychological thriller, the kind of thing that might be easier to talk about in the wake of twisty, twisted stuff like Gone Girl, but you know how uptight I get about labels. I also suspect it is going to be, labels aside, very divisive, as the folks who read earlier drafts provided extremely divided reactions — no middle of the road for this one.
But you know me: nothing by half-measures. If I was capable of, or interested in, writing a "conventional" book, I would have gone and done that by now. God help the fool who looked at my day job and suggested I should Write What I Know and thus produce a "techno-thriller"; the last thing I need to do with my life is create something that we already have three hundred thousand existing examples of! There's no shortage of people around to write something like that, and odds are they'll do a great job of it, because unlike me they won't be falling asleep by the time they reach page six.
I've had this discussion before, and whenever I do it always leads around to a point along these lines: It's one thing to write a book many people think has no market, and another thing entirely to write a book that is not unmarketable but unsalable. The former is when you have something that few people want to take a risk on, even when its qualities are quite evident to all those who have read it, meaning its prospective audience is not very large. The latter is when you have something of such dismal quality that if anyone with an IQ higher than that of a cinderblock pays good money for it, they're likely to feel ripped off.
I'm reasonably confident what I have is in the former category, but I have no real way to find out unless some people look at it. Once I have a list of candidates together — that'll be my research project for the next couple of months — we'll see where that leads.