I finished the first draft of my eighth book this week. It begins a new series for me, and finishing it proved to be quite the accomplishment. It’s a shitty first draft, of course, but I did write the last word, the last sentence for the very first time with great satisfaction.
This book surprised me in many ways. I expected the proverbial walk in the park—me having so much experience and all—but in many ways it was the most difficult project I’ve tackled. I had to confront the reality of doing some tough, very personal writing, and I had to open the veins in my soul and bleed on the page to bring the story to the life I wanted for it. The bleeding turned out to be more profuse than I’d expected.
But rather than continue with generalities, let me get down to it.
Despite the prospect of building a world anew and creating as-yet-unknown characters, I’d thought, in my unmitigated ignorance, that after seven books (six in a series, one stand-alone), the writing itself would be easy. I truly believed I could simply put my fingers to the keyboard and pound it out. Easy. Oh, I’d have to pause now and then to elaborate back story and pull a map together. I’d have to fight my way to a story, but I could pants my way through it. How many times had I done so before? (I do do some outlining, but less and less as I progress as a writer.) Again, easy.
I slogged my way through, and it took me from March to December to complete a 60K manuscript. Granted, I was dealing with life-threatening surgery and a recurrent infection, and the normal crises of making it from one day to the next often intruded. But at my usual speed of 1K a day, I should have finished in a couple of months. I didn’t.
Second, a Brand-new World
I’d spent 40 years in Garla, a lovely spot to abide, and I’d come to know it intimately. Lovely to look at and, with its equal treatment of women and their roles in Garlan society, a paradise for this feminist. The characters were friends I would talk to in difficult times, and a few of them were better at telling the story than I was. In short, I was spoiled.
So, when I set out to create this new space for myself and my potential readers, the pain and struggles of putting Garla together had dissolved, much as the pain of labor evaporates in a mother’s mind when the baby is put into her arms. Man, was I in for a revelation. It required far more effort than I remembered from before.
And the hardest of all? Determining how to revert back to a sexist society without making myself scream in rebellion. I did eventually determine how to get some fairness in without copying (heaven forbid) everything I’d done in Garla to, in essence, “give women the vote.”
Finally, There’s Mari and Me
Mari, this book’s protagonist, is me. I mentioned this in last week’s post, and the prospect of opening up that cesspool of flaws (or wounds, as my therapist calls them) shook me to my foundation. So I moved slowly. I made a false start that I had to pull back on at two-thirds through that first draft. Some of it was usable; some, not. But I rebooted the project and pushed myself forward—always forward—if at only 200 words a day.
And I did it!
And I survived.
I’m proud of this book, and I can’t wait to begin molding it into a readable volume and ultimately sharing it with the world.