It’s only been three months plus a week since I started work on the “novel”. It just feels like an eternity, but I’ve finally reached the point where I can say with confidence that the end is nigh: of volume one.
I had taken some time off from the writing of the thing for a chunk of December and January. Oh, I didn’t ignore it totally or anything, just kept it on the backburner stewing away while I wrote blog after blog. After churning out the first 70,000 words during the frenetic frenzy of National Novel Writing Month 2005 last November, I needed to distance myself from the process to see if I still cared enough to finish.
I’ve had many initial impulses in my life for novels and stories that have just petered out from either lack of interest on my part, or because they obviously weren’t going anywhere. It took me a long time to learn that a storyline for the characters to follow was not just conventional, but extremely helpful from an author’s standpoint.
Having a goal in mind does give you something to focus on in the long run; a place for your characters that you’ve forced marched since the first page to end their journey. If nothing else, it’s only common courtesy. Otherwise they could find themselves wandering around in circles and never going anywhere. At least this way if they’re wandering around in circles they have a destination that you’re working them towards.
Anyway, having left everyone stranded in chapter twenty-five for a while, only checking in periodically to write a hundred words or so to see how they were doing, I decided I needed to make some decisions. First I had to figure out where the hell in the story I was and how much longer I figured it was going to take them to get to “the end”.
I was standing at 89,000 words and not even half way through. My choices were to compress the rest of the book to fit into another 50,000 words, or make it two volumes. If I chose to do one volume it would involve a radical change in the style I had developed to that point in order to speed the pace up.
It would also mean leaving out some interesting character development and sub-plots that I still wanted to play with. I like the relationship that was starting to develop between two of my characters and it would have to be ruthlessly cut from the story if I went the one volume route.
There’s no two volume DVD author’s version when it comes to novels. What doesn’t stay in the hard drive is never recovered for purchase by a few extra dollars next year at Christmas. If I were going to make this a one-volume affair I would have to go back to the beginning and ruthlessly cut out things I had loved writing in the first place.
In the end there really wasn’t that much of decision to be made. It was going to be a two-volume set. Once I had reached that conclusion, everything started to flow again. Three chapters were banged out in a matter of a week, and what looks to be the final chapter of this book has been started, so the end is most definitely nigh.
Of course the temptation exists to just keep writing. It’s a far nicer prospect than the one I’m actually facing in the coming weeks of having to now go back and proofread this sucker and edit it into some sort of shape to send off to a publisher.
I’ve barely looked at any of the stuff I’ve written since it went down on paper in November so have no idea what shape it is in. I’m not suffering from any illusions though, so I’m sure that I’ve a good chunk of rewriting to do before I would even consider letting a publisher glance at page one.
It’s been one thing to offer people the chance to read the first draft online (that offer still stands for those interested, just let me know and I’ll e-mail you the link) if they so desire; they know that it’s only a first draft full of all sorts of weird spellings and inconsistencies. (At one point I had called one character by three separate names and had renamed one of the races of people without noticing.) But it is another thing altogether to send something off to a publisher.
I’d be lying if I said that I would be disappointed if I couldn’t at least get someone to read the whole manuscript. I’d also be lying if I didn’t admit that I write for the purposes of publication. I want to see my work between the covers of a book on the shelves of a bookstore.
Sure I write because I love to and have not much choice in the matter. Any day when I can’t write anything is a disaster and I feel less than complete. It’s a compulsion and an obsession as far as I am concerned, so I’m going to write no matter what.
This does not mean I wouldn’t mind making some money off it. It’s damn hard work for me sometimes and it would be great if I got some return on that labour. Of course in my writer’s pride I also think it’s better than “most of the crap out there” so if they can get published there’s no reason in the world my book can’t.
I know very little about the publishing industry except for all the negative stuff that everybody hears all the time: inbred, conservative, and so on. But that doesn’t seem to put a dent in my optimism (or naivete, take your pick) that one-way or another this sucker will get published.
I don’t mean self-published either. I have nothing against the idea of self-publishing, I already make use of Lulu.com for a bunch of materials, but I want this book to stand on bookshelves in bookstores, rubbing shoulders with the authors I’ve reviewed. She deserves to be happy and get a little piece of the spotlight.
Once I have her all nicely edited and prepared for submission I’ll start sending out the query letters requesting an audience for her with powers that be at a variety of publishing houses. I’d rather not play the game of trying to get an agent at first, because to me that’s just another person who will try and figure out if they can make money from me. One of those is enough for now.
Perhaps it sounds a little like I’m cheating, turning the book into two volumes, and believe me, I’m wondering that myself. But you know what I’m finding out, is that those thoughts haven’t done anything to diminish my sense of accomplishment. I’ve started and finished the first draft of a book.
So what if it doesn’t mean I’m done with the story? Now that I know I can finish one, I know I can finish the second part without a problem. Maybe they will never get published except through my own means; that won’t take anything away from the fact that I created a world, populated it with people I like, and told a part of the story of their lives.
That makes me feel pretty damn good about myself.