In December I began writing a novel. I had one character and a desperate need to tell her story. Like most of my projects the writing started slowly as I figured out where I wanted it to go, and where it wanted to go, and how I was supposed to make those two things work together.
When I start a new book I can usually tell within the first 10 or 20 thousand words whether it’s ever going to be finished. At that point I sometimes find out I was was mistaken: I don’t want to tell that story after all. Occasionally I discover it was derivative, inspired either by something I’ve written already (how many short stories can I write about crazy children, anyway?) or from someone else’s stuff (reading too much Stephen King in a year. King in, King out.)
Occasionally I realize I just really, really wanted to write, and made myself enthusiastic about a story I didn’t care about. I have a lot of the beginnings of that kind of story.
This was not one of those times. By February-March I was really into the book, and when it came to our prescribed update in April I knew I liked it. I knew I was going to finish it. I suspected it was one of the bests things I’d ever written. This is why I refused to say anything about it: What if I was wrong? How could I not be wrong about something like that?
Here we are at another prescribed update, and I can happily say I finished writing on May 22nd. The end.
Of course, by “finished” I mean “stopped, briefly.” Very briefly. The next week I was back into the manuscript, doing line edits and trying to discover if the book I thought I’d written was what I’d really produced.
The relationship I have with most of my full-length novels is kind of magical. When I’m reading them, I love them. We’re together and we click and it’s brilliant. As soon as I step away from the page the doubts begin. I probably only liked it because I was too close. I couldn’t see it like a reader would see it. I was seeing what I wanted to see, not what was actually there. I’m delusional generally, anyway. Or…
And that’s where I am right now. I have a few more edits I need to do before I send the MS to my first reader, and I’m in love with the MS, which is probably a whole lot of crud. It will likely sell in record time and put me in a tax bracket with J.K. Rowling and the Queen, although the book will be used as toilet paper and I’ll never write anything again. Am I some kind of genius, destined to be remembered for ages as a spokesperson for my generation? Probably, and there will be whole university courses devoted to studying what made my prose so terrible, so excruciating, it can actually make people vomit, a la Vogon poetry.