Over the last few years I have written many words, some of them good, many of them not. I’ve learned about craft knowing that I’ll never learn enough, and hope that what I do create is a good story that will inspire some young person (if I’m blessed enough) to read it.
For my MFA I would submit forty pages of words to my advisor every few weeks (sometimes including critical work), and then wait for feedback. So once I graduated I continued a somewhat slower pace that seemed to work for me, setting a deadline that was reasonable, and just continued on. It definitely wasn’t forty pages a month so I didn’t feel like I was working that hard. And while I aimed for a June deadline for a finished draft, given that I was writing less words, I didn’t know if I was going to make it. I didn’t have a word count in mind when I started the novel, I just had a scene of a girl flirting with a waiter at a wedding and a Little Women inspired hair fiasco but that was all. As I continued to write, I knew where it ended. I didn’t write the whole manuscript in order either.
As many of you know, I do a lot of my writing in the mornings on the bus on the way to work. Depending on traffic (and I admit sometimes I want there to be that really horrible early morning congestion so that I can keep writing) I can get three to four pages written. Then on the weekends I’ll type what I’ve written in, revising as I go.
The last couple of weeks I had written a number of scenes, but because I was finishing up some reading for an award that I’m adjudicating and some research for a revision on the Montgomery and Ontario paper, there were a number of pages that needed to be typed in.
On Friday night I had a jumbled mess that I was really not certain that I would ever see the clarity in it. While I had hoped to get down to business and finish this manuscript this weekend mostly because for no other reason but that I just wanted to get it done, I realized that this was not going to help me or the words work better. So I let that it go.
Instead, I decided to watch this really cool documentary on the Jewish legacy of Broadway yesterday morning and then play my sadly neglected piano.*
I never dreamed that six hours later, everything would sort of magically fall into place. Sounds like a fairy tale, doesn’t it? Like I sat down and the words were just there and the whole thing just kind of worked. That is sort of what happened, surprising myself in the process.
Having already revising the final few chapters as I was writing, and working on some of the middle chapters late Friday night, when I inserted what I thought was my jumbled mess, it was like my character knew exactly where she was going and I followed her. Areas where I believe were really complicated, for my character was simple. Seemed that after a morning of broadway and piano playing (which if I were to admit it is one of big themes of the novel), listening to Fred Astaire , and looping the soundtrack to Kinky Boots, she was ready, too.
And as I read that last scene over (tweaking bits here and there) I cried. I cried with her, knowing that our journey wasn’t at an end, but that this leg of it was.
Really, the end of my novel should have classic movie credits with strings:
Here is my confession: I have finished two masters’s thesis, many articles, blog posts, book reviews, and other projects, but until yesterday I had never completed a novel. And now that I have, well…it is like I can do anything.
*It has been hard to balance full time job, writing projects, and my piano playing. I think that I need a project…you know with my spare time…