So you know that novel I started working on last November? The one I've been blogging about since I started this thing? Momentum?
Um, I finished it.
Cue confetti cannons and streamers!
Granted, this is a first draft which means no one in the world is going to be allowed to read it (I have to give you my best, not my first go at it!), but for all intensive purposes, the book is written. Right now it clocks in at about 70,000 words which in page terms, means about 275 pages. Short, I know. I wanted to get everything written first before going back to do a serious revision. I'm sure it will expand as I already have ideas that I want to add to it.
I'm really excited though and nervous. This is different than the first manuscript I finished. There was less of a defining moment where I typed the last sentence, sat back, and cracked my knuckles with a sigh. This one has been a fight. It's been like an exorcism trying to find my main character's voice and to give it the authenticity it needs, but I know I have something. Now I need to fine tune and polish it so it will be presentable to the masses.
It feels nice. As a writer and an unpublished one at that, I felt a sense that I would only be able to do this once and when my first manuscript didn't explode like I wanted it to, I was discouraged. I had to learn to take an idea I'd nursed in my mind for years and set it aside to become enamored with something else. And to be honest, this feels better. I can tell my writing is stronger, I was less attached to certain scenes or phrases, and more able to see my work objectively. As a result, I have a more coherent story with characters who I feel are deeply layered and work with minds of their own. They are complex and I hope the reader takes away something from each of them. I want Momentum to be a novel that you finish, but have to take time to process later.
At the same time, I am definitely scared. Finishing means I am one step closer to putting this thing I've created out into the world and letting my audience do with it what they will. They will form opinions, they will not like what I've said, and they will criticize. However, one thing I am learning is that unless you are writing a journal, you aren't writing for yourself. You have an audience in mind and at some point, you have to give them what they've waited for. My writing classes are helping me overcome the anxiety I get when having someone else read my work. We're all learning. We all have something to offer and we are going to give each other good ideas and criticism. You have to take the bad with the good. You need fresh eyes to look at what you've done because you can't see the mistakes you're making or where you're being so dense, your reader cannot understand what is happening.
When I told my parents, the first thing they asked was when do they get a copy. Well, despite my excitement over finishing, this project is not done. A first draft is only the beginning. A first draft is throwing all the words you need down on paper. It doesn't mean I have a packaged product ready for publication. No one has read the whole thing. I would be an idiot to try and publish without getting even one other person to give me input. What it does mean is that I have my foundation. What I wrote may not necessarily be what I intended, but this is what revising is for.
My plan now?
I want to go through and change all of the things I have been neglecting and add in the ideas I had along the way. I need to cut out the parts that aren't finished at the end or that don't matter. And I need to get fresh eyes on this thing. Literary eyes. I hope to get some connections in the English Department where I am taking classes. Really, I want a mentor. Someone to help guide and mold my work and someone who understands the message I am trying to convey. And that's like dating. You have to find the right partner. Until then, I'll be on my own, putting my all into the manuscript and trying to create the best draft I can.
Then and only then, once I have something that I feel is worthy of publication, will I begin the querying process again. Before, my problem was that I queried too early. I was too eager and ready to see my name on a shelf in Barnes and Noble and what I had to bring to the table was not up to par. I won't make that mistake again. Querying takes research. It takes time and clever writing. I need to take what I've done and summarize it into something that people will want to read. I need to figure out how I want to present it.
So, in other words, I am far from done. Writing the book is actually the easy part. Turning it into something that people want to read (and getting an agent to feel the same way) is where the real work is.
All that said, I feel really proud that I've completed my second novel (even if the first one is still sitting at my desk collecting dust).
And I appreciate everyone's support and enthusiasm. It's those people who ask me, "How is the book going?" that keep me motivated every day.