The Finish Line

knock out

Sense of accomplishment on the right, my brain on the left. (Photo credit: pj_vanf)

Those of you who follow my Twitter feed (it’s over there, on the right) already know something: the zero draft of The Patchwork King, the book I’ve been working on since November, is done.

It’s weird, finishing a manuscript that big. On one hand, it’s a lot of words. Around 140,000. If all those words were ants and they stood end to end, they’d probably make a line long enough to encircle a meaningless comparison. I keep going around the house and picking up paperbacks, thinking, I made one of those.*

On the other hand, the last manic run, when the story had all the momentum, is a goddamned blur. Parts of my brain are still fenced off and smoking. The rest are twitching feebly. I feel like someone punched me repeatedly in the imagination.

Also, the manuscript itself is a huge fucking mess. Parts of it don’t even make sense. Not yet, anyway. So this isn’t the finish line. It’s more of a milestone: it indicates you’ve reached somewhere, but it’s not the end. Not by a long shot.

So, the question becomes: what now? Can’t let that zero draft sit too long, or it will poison itself with its own toxic mistakes. The already dead and rotting parts will go zombie and devour the good ones. But I’m also way too punch-drunk to go back to it right this very second. I could if I had to, if the ref gave me a choice between a ten count to stand and an ignominious failure, but I’d really rather lay down on the canvas for a while.

I finished Wednesday. Yesterday, I took the day off writing to get some stuff done that I’d been putting off: mailing a package to Australia, filling my out-of-town friend’s freezer with rats.** That sort of thing. It was a big list, but I finished that to-do list by three. Then what do you think I did?

That’s right: I wrote. Not on the zero draft; it was something else. But still.

I have a problem.

Here’s the plan: today and the weekend are for regrouping. Looking for submission deadlines and upcoming projects. Next week is Short Story Time. There’s two anthologies that I want to submit to, and those stories will not write themselves, the selfish bastards. I’ll see if I can get a couple of workable drafts on those stories done next week. I’ll probably end up doing a couple of posts on writing short stories as well, since the material will be right there in front of me.

And then…then it’s back to the zero draft. But this time, instead of bringing my coffee-fuelled manic typing skills, I’ll be bringing a scalpel. And a hacksaw. And some crazy glue.

That’s right: it’ll be time to edit.

Game on.

*Well, kind of. Really, what I made hopes to grow up into one of those. It’s more like the book equivalent of a toddler at this point: messy, incoherent, and often wildly inappropriate, but if you give it a chance and some time it might become a real person.
**I bet some of you think I’m kidding.



10 thoughts on “The Finish Line

  1. I appreciate this post particularly right now because I’m mentally toying with the idea of going back to my NaNoWriMo zero draft… but I’m terrified to look at its mangled, sometimes unintelligible contents.

    Have you/can you write a post about the first time you got published? I’d love to know that what/when/how process for starting out.

    • All that shit is a mess when you first go back to it. The trick is going through it with a strong enough sense of the story to figure out what you can keep and what needs to go. Don’t worry, you’ll get a ringside seat to the process once I start on the editing stages of the new MS.

      That’s a good post idea. I’ll make up some notes and maybe get it up next week. Thanks for the idea. 🙂

  2. I wish you all the best in the editing phase – it’s the part I despise. And good for you in finishing the writing phase! 🙂 I love your posts and I’m with “The Smile Scavenger” on the seminar comment!

    • I’ll probably be blogging the editing phase here, so you can always follow the play by play of my alternating hope and despair. It’ll be fun. Bring popcorn.
      Thanks for the compliment as well. You can’t see it, but I’m blushing over the internet.

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