But first, let me preface this with three quick comments:
1. My apologies for my negligence. I’ve been busy as hell lately and mostly ignoring this blog. If you’ve liked/commented/followed any time recently, I’ll do my best to get back to you and visit your page soon.
2. God bless these arctic windchills that have been slamming us lately, because…
3. On Tuesday I finished the first draft of my next novel.
It seems to me like this is either the beginning of something or the end of something. But I’m really not sure which.
That’s a line from the book. I include it her for two reasons.
1. My wife came into the office as I was finishing up for the day on Tuesday. I turned to her and announced my triumph then promptly sank half-limp back into my faux-leather rolling chair. I had our four-month-old in my lap, so my wife picked her up and said, “Well, I guess now you know how I felt after this one was born.”
“Yeah right.” I said. “I just finished the first draft. This is like the moment after conception.”
Any writer should know what I mean. The fun part’s over.
Which brings me to…
2. Anybody who’s ever tried to write a novel can tell you that the beginning is the best part. The first 7000-10,000 words come in a fit of passion that erases all sense of time, place, and reason. Every spare moment you have is consumed by the compulsion to return to your story. You are on the verge of becoming the next Stephen King (or Nick Hornby or Stephanie Meyer or whoever) and your genius cannot – will not – be contained.
But then the creative impulse grows less ardent, and the momentum starts to wear off. You have a few days where the words don’t come quite so freely anymore and a few where they don’t come at all. Then the next time you sit down at the keyboard you realize your characters are underdeveloped and your plotline is full of holes. That’s when it hits you: finishing what you’ve started is actually going to be work. Why do you think so few people ever get beyond I’ve always had this great idea for a novel?
But here’s the secret: that feeling comes back. There’s nothing quite like the euphoria of knowing that you’re closing in on the finish line. After months or even years of plugging away at the keys, you come to the realization that you only have 7000-10,000 words left. You’re on the last mile of the marathon, and you’re running downhill. Case in point, I wrote the final 20,000ish words of my new manuscript over the past 23 days. The last 5000 words came on Monday and Tuesday when school was cancelled. I don’t know if I’ve ever been happier to have to completely re-do my Unit Plans!
If I were to follow King’s advice in On Writing, I would put the manuscript in a drawer for six months. Although I’ve learned the hard way the value of distance when it comes to the editing process, I doubt I have that kind of patience. For right now, I intend to give the book a cursory proofread then I’ll probably shelve it for at least a few weeks. As badly as I want to pick up the hatchet and go to work, I know I’m not ready to start hacking away at my newest baby.
In the meantime, I’ve printed a copy for my wife (she bears the cross of being my first reader on everything). Eventually I’ll have to do the same for at least my mother and sister, if not a few other willing guinea pigs. But….yeah. Frankly, I’m content to use the initial proofing as an excuse to procrastinate and recoup for a week or two.
And what next?
The manuscript I just finished is planned as the first of either a three or four book series. I could easily ride this momentum and start attacking book two. At the same time, I could really use some time off from the main character. He and I have been hanging out a lot lately, and it would be nice to get out and meet some new people.
That said, I’ve had an idea on the backburner for a few years now – I’ve been scribbling down scenes as they come to me and making notes whenever the inspiration strikes – but I haven’t wanted to devote any real time to it until both Rottweiler and my current manuscript were finished (at least as drafts). I’m thrilled to think that I might FINALLY be able to start writing it, but also daunted by the thought of starting another novel – another series, actually – quite so quickly.
I wrote a new short story at the end of last summer – my first in years, I’m embarrassed to admit – and it was a refreshing experience. And maybe that’s the way to go. I just finished a marathon. It might just be time for a few easy jogs around the neighborhood.
Or…I could actually start paying attention to this blog again.
What would you do?
As always, thanks for reading.