Did it. Here on Labor Day I made it to the end of my novel, nearly two years in the making. A mystery, Ten Days to a Bad Habit begins after a well-meaning man does something he's never done in his life. While at a convention in Las Vegas, he sleeps with someone other than his wife. When he wakes up in the morning, the convention helper is dead. His wife, of course, doesn't like learning about this, and she wants to leave him. The police think he killed the woman. So does the D.A. He didn't. Who is getting away with murder, and how?
Of course, the book is not really done. My agent is waiting for it, but there are loose ends I need to tidy up. The opening needs to be made as captivating as possible. I need to read the whole book and see if it works, then polish it.
The ending, though, surprised me. It was inspired by my recent trip to Las Vegas and the Venetian Hotel. I'd spent nearly two years aimed at a certain ending, and a new one blindsided me. But I love it.
Now as I ponder what I've done, I see writing a book is so much more like other things in my life. For instance, I would love my last novel, The Brightest Moon of the Century to find its audience. Despite more than two dozen reviews and some rather enthusiastic reviewers (see my links to reviews on the previous page) and two sales spikes, all is quiet. My marketing budget is nil. As in the writing itself, it takes a lot of work to get something to happen--to get people to notice. A lot of work. "One day at a time," I tell myself.
Add to this that my son, 22, got fired from his job in Arizona in July, and after a week, he was out of money (at which time he called). I had no magic savings account to save him. He's moved home--with a cat and a fish tank and a lot of creditors. I wish I could solve all his problems quickly, but it takes time--like writing a book.
Add to this a comment a student made in one of my recent classes. She said, "Did you hear that the average life of an American male has risen to 78 years?" My stepfather died in July at age 78. Despite his smoking, he still made his full quota, statistically speaking. He's gone, and now it feels like I'm in the waiting room for the Reaper. How many books can I finish before then? How many can I start?
Many people have a hard time starting and finishing something, yet we all finish life. I've thought about what it takes to "finish well" while writing this book. It'd be great if in a hail storm of inspiration, I could hammer out my books in a long weekend like this one. It'd be great if I could inspire a few people, help others get on with their struggles.
It takes a kind of faith, though, to work on novels or any long project including child rearing. You tell yourself this will be good. You get frustrated many times along the way. "Keep at it," goes the mantra. "Believe."
Somehow you convince yourself that that effort will pay off as doubt scratches like the cat at the door wanting its morning breakfast. You look at what you've done. It's shit. Mediocrity rules. "That's okay," you say. The polish comes later. It always comes later. Will you have enough brilliance to polish? What if you don't have the wax?
Experience shows me a few things are in store. First is that feedback will reflect I'm off in many places. As much as I think genius slips in, so do bad renderings. One has to have the patience of a Zen master to keep chiseling away--even if you think you've knifed off an arm.
The hope is that one more time, despite it all, the magic works. We all breathe in hope.
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