After what feels like six thousand and twenty-two rewrites, (but is, in actual fact three major rewrites and heaps of minorish-majorish changes) I finally wrote the last word of my novel a week ago. It was ‘eyes’ by the way, my last word.
It’s on my agent’s Kindle right now, being read by her for a second and, let’s hope, the last time. I dread getting a friendly email back from her saying, “I really enjoyed it but maybe this and this could do with a bit more work.”
I will, in the first place, fall down on the floor in an exasperated faint. I won’t tell my family a word about it and will walk around the house in a sulk for days while they wonder what the hell’s the matter with me. (My family, even after all this time, does not automatically make the jump that bad mood equals bad news in connection with writing. And I’m too proud to tell them, “After three years of slogging away at my novel, it still isn’t good enough.”)
But all of that aside – hope, bad moods, pride and exasperated fainting – what am I supposed to do now that I’ve finished my novel, killed them all off or allowed them a happily-ever-after?
- I, for one, am not the kind of writer you read about who misses the characters who’ve been inhabiting her head for the last couple of years. Quite frankly, I’m sick of them. Sick of wondering how they’d react in a certain situation, sick of thinking about whether a particular phrase is ‘in character.’ I long to shut them up between the pages of a paperback and find new characters to ponder, wonder and think about.
- Do I slowly start collecting ideas, thoughts, scenes and images for the next one? Should I make a rough plotline? Start interviewing my new characters? (This is an exercise I always do at the start of a new book, a technique I learned from Lajos Egri’s book, The Art of Creative Writing. And yes, I do already know what the next book’s about and who the characters are. They crashed into my brain about two weeks ago on a drive back from Antwerp listening to a Tom Waits CD.)
- Do I lay off long-term projects for a while? (And how long is a while? A month, six weeks, ‘til the end of the summer?) Should I try a short story, something I’m always smacking after when I’m busy on a novel but won’t allow myself the indulgence.
- Do I do absolutely nothing? Just be a person instead of a writer. Maybe dabble on a blog post or two but further nothing else. Empty my head of everything that’s got to do with writing – plot, theme, characters blah, blah, blah – just let it all go. That way I’ll have a nice fresh head when I sit myself down in front if my laptop again in September (alright, I suppose ‘a while’ means ‘til the kids go back to school.)
Do I break the good writing rhythm I’ve built up? Do I ignore these two very interesting women who’ve taken hold in my imagination?
Do I do this? Or don’t I?
I expect it will be Life that makes the decision for me and not me: my lack or abundance of free time (now that I don’t have the excuse of a strict writing regime to fob my family off with.) The constant tug-of-war between being an active, participating mum, wife and friend versus a leave-me-alone-I’m-writing author.
Who will I be? What will I choose? What is a writer when she’s not writing?