Thoughts Upon Completion of My Second Book
The obsessively-devoted fans among you may have noticed that I tweeted something Tuesday about having finished my final read-through of She Returns From War prior to submitting it to the Robot Overlords. Today is the day that submission takes place, and I have a whole mess of thoughts about it. Since you stopped by, I suppose I should tell you that I’ve embedded a virus into this post which locks out all browser functions except page scrolling for ten minutes. That should be enough time for you to read and contemplate my earth-shattering reflections on the writing process for my second book. Ten minutes also happens to be exactly how long it takes Dr. Mario to divine the cure for the virus.
First of all, I want to acknowledge and thank all of the wonderful, insightful, and necessarily harsh beta readers that helped me get a bead on the revision process: AA confederates Wes Chu, Laura Lam, Mike Johnson, and Rob Haines; family and friends Mel, Nancy G, and Bill; and my Ideal Reader, the beautiful Tori. Without their selfless commitment, tireless line editing, and shrewd suggestions, I would have been stuck carving a metaphorical monument in the desert without anyone standing at a distance shouting, “Dude! Noses do not look like that!” Then, when my bulbous, misshapen monstrosity was subjected to the world’s scorn, I totes would have rage quit on the spot.
The experience was not without instructional value, either. Given that I have only one other episode of novel composition and revision under my belt, my sample size is nowhere near large enough to generalize these findings. However, you should still have about eight minutes left on that browser lockdown, so here we go:
1. Taking a break doesn’t result in the subatomic destabilization of the universe – When I first decided to put the manuscript down for (what ended up being) a month, the idea terrified me. It flew in the face of my own dichotomous work ethic and the advice of every writer who has pontificated on the subject of dedication. However, as it turns out, not much happened. Not only did I not miss my deadline, but none of my beta readers even noticed the seam where I abandoned the narrative in favor of vicariously slaughtering eldritch horrors and gangs of roving marauders in Skyrim. A word of warning, though: this only works if you’ve made good headway and still have some room to breathe. I wouldn’t suggest it to anyone who is brushing up against a deadline.
2. Revisions come in many forms – Stephen King advises writers to cut out 10% of their first drafts. I know writers who completely restructured their books during the revision process. Thus, when my final version trimmed a scant 1.5% off the word count and featured no major plot alterations, I found myself beset by an angry, flapping horde of doubt moths. They inconsiderately flitted about my ears, their wings whispering that I had not done enough. Horrible, dust-covered bodies rubbed against the open wounds of my insecurities. I fought them to a stalemate with my final read-through, however; while not perfect, I’m happy with how the manuscript turned out. Very happy, as a matter of fact. I’ve yet to see what the Overlords think of it, but it seems that the amount of revision isn’t directly proportional to the quality of the manuscript in all cases.
3. Finishing a contracted novel feels very different from finishing a casual novel – This one surprised me. When I finished The Dead of Winter, I felt a great sense of accomplishment. A milestone had been reached, a Rubicon had been crossed, a baby had been fired out of a cannon, etc etc. One more life goal to check off. Finishing She Returns From War, however, brought a new and unexpected sensation: immense relief. Yes, I still felt the heady rush of “Holy shit, I just finished writing a book”, but there came attached a gigantic helping of “Thank God I didn’t fuck up.” I can actually relax and have hot, sweaty, guilt-free fun now. Or I could, but…
4. I no longer remember how to have fun – During both the writing and revision processes, my gaming was essentially limited to AFK mining in EVE , and my recreational reading only happened on the bus in to work. Since finishing my final read-through two days ago, I have spent my evenings engaged in the following “fun” activities: A) spending 60 minutes yelling profanities at the singularly hardest boss fight in Xenoblade Chronicles; B) napping; and C) making a spreadsheet in Open Office to make calculating production costs in EVE easier. I hope this affliction is temporary. If it isn’t, I suppose there’s nothing for it but to get to work on my next book.