Finishing a book

I last finished a book just over three years ago, in spring of ’07. I was down in the Dominican Republic for a week, and spent every afternoon and evening in the bar, writing, fuelled by a constant stream of gin and tonics (which was itself fuelled by some careful tipping of, and friendly conversation with, the wait staff all week).

It was a great feeling. I had been working on this book for two and a half years, and four months before our vacation, I had stopped dead around the two-thirds point in the book. I had no idea how to go on, no idea how to get to the end, only the very vaguest idea of what the ending would be. My wife provided the idea I would eventually use, but I still didn’t know what to do to get through the current spot.

Once I got down there and started writing, it flowed nicely. In the six days there, I wrote about 20,000 words, working six to eight hours a day. As I proceeded, page by page, it started really taking shape — then gathered momentum, and soon took off with an energy of its own. And on our last afternoon there, with an early shuttle to the airport the next morning, I was driving towards the end. Around six o’clock, I laid the pen down. Done.

I had to go for a walk to try to calm my nerves. I wouldn’t even be keeping the stuff I had just written; the last chapter I had to rewrite significantly to change the focus, and the epilogue has been tossed out and rewritten completely (as has the first chapter). But I was done. I could relax.

I’m getting close to the finish line on the next novel, the sequel to that one. I’ve only been working on it for a little over a year, but by my birthday (in less than two weeks), I intend to have it finished. I had originally planned to have it done by my birthday, then moved it up to July 1 and then June 1 — then slowly moved the target date back to its original place. I was originally trying to write 75,000 words, though, and am somewhere between 90,000 and 100,000 now, so it’s taken longer than expected.

I won’t be feeling so good when I get to the end of this one, unfortunately. I know that I have far, far more work to do once this one’s done than I did for the previous one in the series. But it will be a milestone, for sure. And it will be good news for my agent (who is busy trying to sell the first one in the series, and will be happy to be able to tell editors that the second book in the series is done), and good news for my wife (who will not have to hear me griping quite so much about how the book isn’t as good as I want it to be).

So mixed feelings. Plus I have to think about what I’m going to write next, while I work on whipping this one into shape. But a milestone is a milestone, and I’m going to have to find a good way to mark the end of the first draft. Maybe a good bottle of wine, to soften the blow of all the editing I’m in for as soon ¬†as I finish typing this thing up…

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