Monday, March 16, 2009

Almost There (the agony!)

I'm almost there.

It took me six months to draft the novel I'm currently working on; it's taken me more than a year to revise it, and I now have officially 38 pages to go (though as I remarked in my discussion of writer's block, that can flex considerably due to story problems).

This is where it starts getting hard to wait - on a lot of different dimensions. I feel like the horse running for the stable, in part because I can feel myself in the midst of the end of my plot. The trick is, the climax and resolution of my book actually is about 80 pages long. Here's the hard part: I must not rush.

If I relax and start to rush, I'm more likely to accept the text I've already written. It's easy to say, "Yeah, this is working." Everybody is playing the role they need to play, and the story is progressing - after all, this was always the part of the story that worked best. When I relax and fall into this kind of authorial view, though, I miss opportunities.

There are two stances I use when I write: the authorial stance, and the character stance. This appears to be pretty common among writers. The authorial or editor stance tells me what I want to have happen, and how I want the book to work. The character stance takes me deeper into the story, giving me insight into visceral emotion. One brings order; the other brings chaos.

These two stances should always be in a state of tension.

If I hadn't been thinking from an authorial point of view, I wouldn't have realized that after implying that two guys might fight over my main character right in front of her, I have to follow through on that threat or risk disappointing readers.

If I hadn't been thinking from the character point of view, I wouldn't have understood how incredibly upsetting my main character finds the possibility of witnessing that fight.

If I rush, I'm less likely to be thorough in my double approach to each section of the story. I'm also less likely to understand all the possible consequences, both logistical and emotional, of the events that occur.

Last, but probably worst: if I rush, I'm likely to jump into submissions before I'm ready. I've done this before, and ended up with rejections from a number of agents I admire.

On the other hand, it's hard to say, whether I'd be where I am with this story if I hadn't received the helpful comments I received in those rejections.

If you ever receive a rejection with comments, take a few moments to cry, but then rejoice. The comments agents or editors give you are pure gold. Yes, they're short. Yes, they're generally vague - these people don't have the time to go through your text to back up their opinion with examples. But a comment of any kind shows that the person cared enough to tell you what they thought. It's worth sitting down and trying to figure out why they might have said what they did.

As I approach the end of my story now, I feel good. On edge, of course, because I never know how things are going to turn out in the query process. But good, because I know I've done my best to address the comments I've received, and as a result I can feel how much better the story has become. Forty more pages and it will be ready for critique. Maybe soon after that, ready for queries to go out.

But I must not rush. The end of the story is a time to drive harder, reach deeper, never falter in intensity even on the last page. Maybe then someone will answer my submission and tell me it was all worth it.

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