On Coming to the End

Man, does that sound like a depressing subject.  But all is not lost!

A.

Phoebe North (you can find her blog here) just finished the first draft of her second novel, a novel that has agent(s) clamoring to get their hot little hands on it (okay, it is one personal request, but in The World of Trying to Find an Agent that seems like a horde, a posse, a large group, okay, just one, but one is all you need (along with love)).

She’s decided to take a break from writing.  As I understand it, this is partly because of a desire to distance herself a bit from the book – to get some perspective so that when her book comes back all marked up from her first readers she’ll be able to look at their comments objectively – and partly because, well, goddamn, she just finished a novel.

A novel!

And after such an endeavor one might, and one often does, take a slight break to savor that sweet feeling of accomplishment (before having to dive back into the work to revise, at which point all prior accomplishments count for naught).

And after such an endeavor one might, and one often does, feel a sense of loss.  I don’t really remember what I did after finishing my two previous novels, though I’m pretty sure that lack of memory isn’t due to a drinking binge born out of the sudden deep, dark hole that has opened in my life where NOVEL WRITING used to be.

Sure, it’s good to be finished.  To be done.  To have something complete, i.e. A finished novel is a novel; an unfinished novel is nothing.

But being done – especially with something that has taken up so much of one’s life – means that one or you or me, for example, has lost what has given them purpose.

B.

So what you do is find substitutions.

When I finished my last novel and couldn’t figure out what to do next, I worked on poems, I puttered around with plays, I half-heartedly attempted an essay.  But I needed something to make me feel like I was working towards a larger goal – and because I was querying my novel at the time, I didn’t really feel like starting a new novel (though I did anyway, come summer).

I decided to write a blog.

It was an easy choice, as I already had a blog, I just didn’t update it very often.  It wasn’t a part of my writing repertoire.  The major purpose it had had in the three years of its prior existence was to keep my friends and family updated with what I was doing during my months in Kraków.

But if I wrote a blog post a day for a year then…

1. I’d prove to myself whether or not blogging was a useful form of writing for me.
2. I’d build, perhaps, some sort of web presence that would be useful should I, I don’t know, actually publish a novel one of these days.
3. I’d keep myself writing.

The last is the most important.  And it’s worked.  Over the past year I’ve written an average of twenty thousand words a month via this blog which, if turned to novel writing, would mean that I’d finish a new novel every four months.

In ten days, my Year of Living Bloggily will be over.  I’ll have completed my experiment and proven to myself (that with the encouragement of friends, family, and, most importantly, girlfriend) that I can write a blog for a year and that I can write consistently every day.

I’m sad about the end of the experiment.  No, I won’t be giving up blogging, but I will be posting less.  Perhaps two or three days a week instead of every day.  More importantly, blogging will always come after writing.

Because, based on my statistics above, I’ve got a few novels to write before the year is up.

Wish me luck.

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3 Responses to On Coming to the End

  1. Sean Wills says:

    I’ve only finished a draft of one novel (blame college), and after I wrote the last word of that I did the following:

    1. Sat back from the keyboard and waited to be flooded with a sense of accomplishment and happiness.

    2. Waited some more.

    3. Slowly realized that accomplishment and happiness would not be forthcoming.

    4. Admitted to myself that the novel had serious problems and that I should have restarted back at the 40k mark rather than continuing on in futility.

    5. Buried that sucker as deeply into my hard drive as I could.

    I view the whole thing as a useful learning experience.

  2. I must say, I’m very impressed and attracted to your voice. I look forward to reading more of your work, even if you won’t be posting as often.

    Take care,
    Jennifer

  3. Phoebe says:

    Aw, hey, ya talkin’ bout me. 😀

    It is a strange feeling, isn’t it? In the past my reactions have varied. I’ve popped open champagne and begun editing immediately. I’ve done a quick spellcheck and disasterously decided my book was near perfect the way it was. I’m hoping this is a middle ground–a week or so of objective distancing, and a realization that my work is not nearly done. I think it’s a healthier approach.

    Congrats on finishing your experiment!

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