Thursday, April 02, 2015

What it feels like after writing "the end"

Beta Pictoris - Star with Disk - Not Annotated

Writing is a strange and private endeavor. So much of the work happens inside your own head and what makes it to the page is only a fraction of what you've been imagining. Two days ago, I wrote 'end' at the last page of an 85,000 word manuscript that I had begun brainstorming in September of 2104, and started actually writing mid October.

I could break down statistics into words and days, how many words per day on average I worked, etc, but that only shows the visible effort.

What's invisible is the hours of thinking, research, reading, and retrenching that goes into creating a novel.I have a notebook full of ideas and dead ends, elements that would have taken ITHAKA RISING in a host of other directions, except for the fact that those ideas didn't resonate with some element of the story: character, conflict, setting, plot, etc.

Writing is turning your back on a near infinity of choices and making those few that bring the story to its best self. 

And the thing is, I don't always know what that's going to be at the outset. I end up going down these blind alleys and often must double back to the main road in the process. Not all writers do this. Many follow strict plans, outlining down to the chapter/scene level. Others put their hands on the keyboard and 'let her rip. I seem to travel a path at some midpoint between.

So after just shy of six months of work, including a marathon effort of writing nearly half the manuscript in the past 30 days, and after a quick pass to eliminate the 'low hanging fruit' of obvious misspellings and basic grammar oopses, ITHAKA RISING is out to my wonderful and generous beta readers.

And it's a little odd - they will read a different story than I wrote. They will only see the choices and the branching pathways I took; not the ones I considered and rejected. Where I will always see those nexus points in the narrative, they will only see the serendipity and the inevitability of what's on the page.

While I think I connected all the dots and that the story as a whole makes sense, they will be the ones who will tell me if that's so. Because the author cannot go home with every reader and explain why that scene way back in chapter three really does make sense and see? in chapter 16, it hints at why so and so decided to do such and such. No - it all needs to be in the narrative, or at least in the subtext of the narrative.

So, how do I feel?

Like I have a big empty hole in my middle where a story used to live.

While I'm writing, the story is mine. I own it. I control it. I define it. Once I hand it off to a reader, it no longer is mine. My interpretation of events within it don't matter any more. Only the readers matter. That is the constructivist nature of art.

That is why releasing something you have created is an act of astonishing bravery and difficulty. And I'm not even talking about the whole commercial aspect of being a creator!

Today, I feel hung over. (If my kids are reading this. . . not that I know what that sensation is . . . nothing to see here, move along. . . ) My brain is logy and I'm having trouble organizing for all the tasks, large and small, that got shoved to the margins while I was furiously writing.

It's like being woken up in the midst of a dream. That place you can inhabit during the creation process is dream-like, intoxicating (though sometimes like a bad trip. . . ). I do know that it is addicting and when I'm between projects, I often wander in a lost daze for a bit.

I have the next two weeks to figure out how to focus on the real-life, mundane tasks and chores that need to be done until I dive back into the dream-time of writing and start the revision work.


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