I spent all day yesterday entering the remaining hand written pages of my finished rough draft for my first novel into the computer. A second chance to clean up some passages, straighten out a few dead ends, add notes for the next draft, and discover what some of my minor characters been holding back from me.
The finished manuscript weighed in as a heavyweight at 665-page (double spaced) and 120,495 words. I printed out the remaining pages for my first reader and my reading copy (which should be the editing copy), and the whole thing as a short version (single-spaced printed on both side that should be the reading copy). After glancing at the earlier chapters and cringing from the horrible writing, I packed everything away to forget about this story for the next three months.
After all that I have done for the last year, I felt empty inside. I didn’t want to write today’s blog post or finish writing a new short story. I didn’t want to watch the new Top Chef Masters that aired this week. I didn’t want to do any kind of writing at all this weekend.
I pulled “Journal Of A Novel: The East of Eden Letters” by John Steinbeck from my bookshelf. I read about 80% of this book in 2007 when I was still playing around with the idea of writing a novel, and lost interest because I decided not to write a novel at the time. I finished reading this book last night, and found my answer to my emptiness in Steinbeck’s own words: “Then suddenly the book is done. It is a kind of death.”
I am in mourning. I am mourning for my finished rough draft. I am mourning with the knowledge that I must leave my story in a box for three months to have the emotional clarity for editing the next draft. I am mourning when everything suddenly got so good.
Never mind that I found the heart and soul of my story in the next-to-last paragraph of the last chapter that ties a significant minor character to a point of view (POV) character in a meaningful way. Or that an underdeveloped minor character made a major confession in the Epilogue that reveals not only the true nature of his character, but this also ties the various plot lines in a way that stuns the other characters, and that the minor character who is deeply impacted by all this declares her forgiveness for him. Or distilling the entire story into a single paragraph in a query letter that I’m a year away from sending out to agents and/or publishers reveals that I have written a coming of age story.
All that waits for the next draft. Until then I must mourn for now and move on.
NOTE: This blog post was first published on Once Upon An Albatross… blog.