The world is broken, and we are all holding our breaths, so I’m going to write about writing.
On Friday, I finished a book.
Okay, so, that’s not entirely accurate. I have a few things to fix. Four, to be precise: small notes that will require tweaking a sentence here and there. (In my experience, it’s the small revisions that sometimes take the most time, but even so, we’re talking about a couple of hours at the very most.)
But basically? It’s done. Structured, polished, ready for other eyes. Ready for me to set it aside and start something else.
At this point in my life, I’ve finished five books: my three published books, the book I originally queried (DEAD HOUR, that became half of THE COLD BETWEEN), and this one. Despite the fact that two of those books were written in the miasma of crazy deadlines and crappy sales, one thing about the experience has always been the same: that sense of loss when I finish, of having the floor drop out from under me. This morning, sitting here tapping out this blog post, I feel this vague unease while contemplating the day before me: I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself.
I don’t know if I’m unusually slow at novel-writing. Certainly there are writers out there who are faster than I am. I guessed once that I could write a book in a year, but I’m not sure that’s right. DEAD HOUR was my 2011 NaNoWriMo novel, and I didn’t start querying it until early 2013. REMNANTS was started sometime in 2014, and delivered to the publisher in October of 2015, although it didn’t go into production until (I think?) February 2016.
(The edits on REMNANTS were extensive and beautiful and complex and involved lots of contradictory notes from my US and UK editors. Those edits were so stressful, and so much fun.)
BREACH was started by the time I was doing edits for REMNANTS, but I couldn’t really get to it in earnest until February, and my delivery date was October. BREACH might’ve taken me as little as a year, but I’m not sure. I was certainly thinking about it long before I started it.
I began CONDITION OF WAR for NaNo in 2016, and worked on it again in 2017. I’ll be doing the same this year, and then working on it full-time afterward, with a plan to finish for-real in early 2019. The storied origins of that book I’ll talk about when it’s done.
The book I just completed I’ve been working on more or less constantly since about March/April of 2017. It emerged sideways, and I very nearly let someone bully me into drowning it in the bath. It would’ve been easy to abandon it–maybe easier than it was to keep going.
But I fell in love, and here we are.
Even if you’re a fast writer, a novel is a pretty big time investment. It’s not just the writing of it; it’s all the thinking that happens between the words. There’s a part of your subconscious that’s always chewing on it. Any idea you have to spend that much time with, you’d better love. And it’s for sure that if you don’t love it, no reader will love it, either.
All of this is in aid of saying I’ve been living and breathing this book, this world, these characters for 18+ months now, and it’s very strange letting them go. Of course, this happens to me every time, even with the series books–I still want to write Dallas some short stories–but that doesn’t make it any easier to cope with.
It’s loneliness, I think; the missing internal monologue, the tale that’s ended. And now all the mental space that was taken up with all of these imaginary people is empty.
I do have things to do. I’ve been writing a few short stories lately, although that’s not really the same thing. Shorts need to have a core idea that can be fully expressed in not a lot of space, and when you’re used to indulging epic-length ideas in your head, it can be hard to identify what will and won’t work for a shorter piece. I’ve written a few I’m happy with, which I’ve put up on my author site. I’ve got another drafted, and another germ of an idea. These, on top of plunging back into Book 4 for NaNoWriMo, will keep my writing muscles in shape.
None of that really eases the loss.
It’s worth mentioning that mentally I’m in a much, much better place than I was when I started this book. Whether or not my external struggles informed the narrative or not I can’t really say; I’m no good at playing connect-the-dots with such things, although it stands to reason reality influences art. I can see all kinds of parallels when I read it, but that doesn’t make them more than coincidence. We are all broken, one way or another, and we all need to find our own ways to survive.
What I’ll do with this book I’m not sure. There are the usual things one does, of course, but I’m hesitant. This is a decision point, one for which I don’t think I’ll ever really be ready. I’m protective of this book, but I suppose every book is made up of the author’s vulnerable spots.
For now, though, it’ll stay with me, safe and appreciated. And I’ll let myself be sad for a few days, before I jump in the river and get swept away by something new.