FINISH THAT FIRST DRAFT
It’s done. Complete. Just typed: END. That’s 81,000 words of work over with. My second Logan Sand crime novel is finished. Book number thirty-two has been racked up.
At least the first draft.
Never mind that it is lumpy with flaws. Scenes must be added to. Scenes must have deletions. Characters have to be fleshed out. Chronological sequences might need to be altered. The first editing has to be done. Then it will be run through your critique group then another edit. Read it through, carefully, end to end, each word, sentence, paragraph, page. Do a final edit.
It is terrible now. It stinks. You can’t approach it without a spray can of room freshener. Some pages read like a grammar school essay. Other pages are loaded with clichés. How did you get through it all?
Every morning, from four or five until noon you hacked away at it. Some days you left the computer with as many as fifteen completed pages. Other days you spent the whole morning staring at the computer screen. What Hemingway called long periods of thinking, short periods of writing, and you walked away with one paragraph—or less. Anything over three pages was a good morning’s work. Five pages were so satisfying they made you friendly with the outside world. You even smiled during the day.
You hit a wall at page 280. It’s always between 270 and 280. No reason for it either. You knew what was going to happen, you had it right there in your outline. The next scene was planted in your mind. The scene was there but the words to describe it lay hidden somewhere between the new balancer for the motorcycle, the stiff clutch in the Explorer and the needed sail for the boat. Each time you reached for the words other images cluttered the air.
Luckily you didn’t fall in love writing this one. All you’d need are thoughts of a woman pulling at your heart.
The block was there but you made yourself sit in front of the computer anyway. Morning after morning—one sentence—another. One day—another. The back of your head kept saying, “Good job, boy. Whew! That sentence was tough. Time to knock off. Look, it’s almost noon. Come on, one sentence is enough for today. You’ll get more tomorrow. There’s always tomorrow.”
Word by agonizing word, sentence by sentence, the block crumbles and you can move on with the story. Story? What story? You dare to call this stinking mutilation of English grammar a story? Well, there are some mornings you smile and think maybe that part wasn’t half bad. You really do want to know what happens next.
Lingering in the background is always the doubt. Who do you think you are? Anybody who writes a shopping list thinks they can write a book. And just look at what you write. Any hack with half the talent can churn out this junk. You sit here day after day. This isn’t the kind of writing you originally intended, you’re not the kind of writer you thought you’d be, where you thought you’d be. Yet, you keep doing it, book after book. Who do you think you are?
Even if the novel gets finished, so what? Women won’t like it because it’s too tough. Men don’t read. It’ll languish in anonymity like the thousands of other books out there. Nobody can read all the books available. Why would they read yours? Why don’t you just quit? Admit the book stinks. Toss it and go for a sail. That’s more fun. Or find a woman to share dinner with. The company of a woman is much more fun. Almost anything else you can think of is more fun. There’s sure no fun in this. It’s only that obsessive affliction you carry that makes you continue through this nonsense.
But you know you can’t seriously pass judgment until you have something to judge. You can’t say the book is lousy, you can’t say it’s good.
You can’t say anything about it until it’s finished.
And there is the answer. Ideas are a nickel a boxcar load. Ideas mean nothing until they are acted on and completed. Air around the globe is crowded with incomplete ideas colliding into each other, worthless. Your completed book might be brilliant. Or it might be less than brilliant. Or it might be not bad. The book is nothing until it is done. It doesn’t exist. It is invisible. It can’t be judged because it isn’t there.
On days you walk away with good pages you think might mean something, you think: Maybe when it’s done it might be…
And get it done. Today. 6:30 this morning. The End.
And all those social and book networks.