The end is nigh!
No, this isn’t a declaration of some impending apocalypse; the end, in this instance, refers to the end of the first draft of my first novel length work. There was a time there when I felt I’d never reach the goal, where the number 105,000 looked too huge… too overwhelming. I finished my writing session last night with a little over 101,000 words on the manuscript total… 4000 more words to go, but then the real work begins.
I’m planning on celebrating the completion of the draft, but this milestone is merely the first leg of the journey — there’s still plenty of road ahead. The real work comes after the first draft is done, because no piece of writing (unless you happen to be perfect in your execution… and I, most certainly, am not) is ready for the world in the first iteration. I have a lot of revision and editing to do… this being the first novel I’ve ever written, I’d be a fool to convince myself that it’s not rife with problems the require careful untangling… honestly, some of it is outright shit that needs to be cleaned up, or discarded and rewritten. I’ve earmarked a few chapters that are going to require some serious surgery because they’re clunky, or they lack the narrative punch that makes the difference between an okay piece of writing and a good piece of writing… and I’m not prepared to settle for okay… I know potential readers won’t be either.
This is my freshman attempt at writing a full length novel… I may have mentioned that already… and as such, some of this manuscript was written with boundless joy, some with bottomless deperation, some with manic obsession, and some with caustic exhaustion. I’ve learned a lot over the ten months it has taken me to draft this book, and I have much more to learn still… volumes of knowledge and experience to rack up before I comfortably take the title of novelist… I’ll accept storyteller for now because, at least to me (and this is meant as no disrespect to storytellers out there) this is where the kernal originates. It’s not enough to merely tell a story, the trick is in making it compelling and entertaining and I think I’ve accomplished at least that thus far.
Just because you can build something doesn’t make you a master craftsman, though, and that’s where the learning must go on because to continue to challenge yourself and strive for excellence should be on the list of goals for any artist… settling for anything less puts you in the realm of, “why do it at all?” Creating is a struggle enough as it is, but doing it with a degree of verve takes a lot of hard work, and it’s an extreme act of ego to believe that you’re automatically at the top of your game just because you happened to have written a novel. The first novel proves a lot; principally it proves that you have the discipline and the drive to complete the task, that you can, by an act of will (or stubbornness), write a really long piece of prose… and that, by no means, entitles you to anything.
Cross a desert, it’s you against the desert; cross the ocean, it’s you against the ocean; write a novel, it’s you against yourself — no shit, you learn a bit about what you’re made of. It’s not physically demanding (a little, if you happen to suffer from a repetitive motion injury), but it most certainly is intellectually and emotionally demanding. I’m beat… but I’m excited to do it all over again. I guess we can consider this an extreme brain sport; the rush comes, not from jumping off the cliff or taking on the rapids, but from taking an abstract idea, turning it into a concept, and making it grow into a story — this imaginary Genesis, which people have likened to playing God, is where it’s at… the addictive part akin to the adrenaline rush of more physical endeavors.
I’m on the verge of finishing this thing, it’s taken me ten months, it’s been a mental and emotional roller coaster… when I knock out the last period on the draft, and turn out the lights on this leg of the project, I’m going to get really drunk and sleep for two days…
This past week, Harry Harrison, Science Fiction author/satirist, died at the age of 87. Even if you were not a fan (and I really wasn’t, I’ve always been a more avid reader of Fantasy) it’s important to note that the man’s work will endure long after his death. In these instances I feel it’s important to give your condolences regardless of whether or not you were a fan of the man’s stories or of the genre as a whole because the simple fact is that this man (and the genre in which he worked) contributed, via his imagination, to our cultural consciousness. If you don’t know who Harrison is go look him up, it’s certainly worth your while. Like I said, I wasn’t a big fan but I sure as hell knew who the man was.
We’re losing a very important generation in Genre, the generation that established the arena and the rules, who broke said rules, who pioneered speculative fiction with imaginations so powerful their visions resonate to this day and will most likely continue to resonate for a long time. It is that status to which we aspire, and it’s important the we acknowledge it and that we give due respect to those that have gone before.
Rest in peace, Harry Harrison, and thank you for your imaginative stories… Say “hi,” to Ray Bradbury and Anne McCaffrey for me…