Last year, end of November, the last day of NaNoWriMo: “I’m finished! Look at that! in a month, I wrote 76,000 words!”
Around about January or February, with the preliminary round of feedback: “Hmmm. I don’t know if I can make most of these changes. They go against the moral fiber of my characters.” I’ve since decided that this is my knee-jerk reaction and is really shorthand for “Whoa, that’s way too much work, I don’t want to twist the characters into stereotypes. Let me think about this.”
Around about April or May, in random conversation with my favorite cheerleader (aside: everyone writing a book needs a cheerleader, whose job it is to simply cheer you on and tell you everything you’re writing is great no matter what so you can finish the damn thing): “Huh. I wonder what would happen if I told this book from multiple points of view.” Cheerleader: “YES!” (Thank you, cheerleader, I love you a ton!)
Cue massive rewriting, resulting in a 113k beast of a book that I loved a lot more than NaNo Draft #1.
Around about July, the night before my dad died: Mockingly mean feedback received on my query from a complete stranger in a twitter pitch thing. Me: “That’s it, I’m hanging up my pen. I don’t need this shit in my life on top of everything else.” The next day put things in perspective, though.
Two nights later. Me: Huh, I think complete stranger might have been right about one thing (the book’s too long), if not the others. I would still wage an epic war over her nasty mocking tweet methodology, but I’m going to start reworking.
Around about August: novel is down below 95k. I’m so excited, I just can’t hide it, I’m about to lose control and I think I like it! Enter novel into Pitch Wars, get a couple requests for fulls, feel pretty good. Don’t get chosen.
Around about September: Get some great feedback from two people who actually won’t be my mentors after all. Sit on it for a week or so, mull it over, figure out how to best make sense of their comments while maintaining the integrity of the book/plot/characters. At the same time receive “I vehemently dislike the way you wrote this and also I don’t like half your main characters, I want you to take them out and focus on doing it this way” feedback from a reader. Me: spend a few days feeling like I might as well go back to Around about July and just scrap the fucking book, since it’s obviously no good. A few days later, I reread the feedback from those who actually won’t be my mentors and mentally highlight the parts that say things about how the writing was great, the book was strongly considered, and they were completely drawn in. I stop feeling so hurt.
Today. Me: gearing up for Draft #3. Taking advice from both of those who actually won’t be my mentors, from the vehement disliker, and from my cheerleader. Starting to outline the changes, and realizing there’s no hurry. Decide not to participate in tomorrow’s #PitMad, feel the weight of the world lifting from my shoulders. Like someone somewhere said (I find it attributed to multiple people), writing a novel is not a sprint. It’s a marathon, and I’m in no rush to finish it.
I want it to be the best story it can be. I have a lot of faith in it, still, just like I did before. I can answer my own question this way: I’m finished with my book when I have no more inspiration to work on it.
That’s not the case yet.