Quite unexpectedly, I finished my novel this afternoon. I still don’t think it’s sunk in yet.
As you may recall, I began writing “Dream Sailors” four years ago. Soon after moving in, Tara suggested we set aside time every Sunday to write. She has long been supportive of my writing – was, in fact, the first person to buy “No Time For Kings,” long before we even started dating – so I was strongly in favor of the idea. It had been a couple of years since NTFK was published, and I was feeling the writing itch again. There were a few false starts as I decided what to write; at one point it was going to be a sequel, but then I decided I wanted to go in an entirely different direction. First-person POV instead of third-person; male protagonist rather than female; a story with a sci-fi element versus a straight-up thriller. An NTFK sequel would have been easier; revisiting the characters I had grown to love would have been like slipping on a favorite pair of shoes, familiar and comfortable, but I feel it’s important to challenge yourself as a writer and not take the easy route.
I have long been fascinated with dreams. After all, a particularly vivid one brought me and Tara together, so they seemed like a topic worth exploring. Throw in my own personal lucid dreaming experiences, and the stage was set for my next novel.
Things went well in the beginning. For a few weeks, we set aside a good chunk of time every weekend to write. I worked on my new novel, and Tara blogged.
And then we both just stopped.
I don’t really know why. I think part of the reason is the fact that living together was a novelty, and we were both out of work at the time, so we filled our weekends exploring. And then I landed my dream job as a content specialist. Writing five days a week for eight hours at a stretch, I didn’t particularly feel like doing the same thing in my spare time, too. So 30 pages in, my novel languished. I had zero motivation to continue.
Years passed, actually. There was a wedding. I sold my townhouse. My daughter came to live with us. We moved to an apartment. I guess you could say life happened. I was now a professional writer, but was I truly a writer?
Last year, I started to get the itch again. After publishing “No Time For Kings” in 2011 I was content to rest on my laurels for a long time, but I started to miss the process of writing. The “writer’s high” is a real thing, and I began to crave it the way an addict craves drugs. So I hatched this plan to try NaNoWriMo, booking myself a vintage trailer for a weekend writing retreat in order to kick-start my long-stalled novel and get back into the groove.
It worked. I “won” NaNoWriMo. Dashed off 50,000 words in 30 days. Breathed new life into my long-gestating novel.
But then November ended, and my frenetic writing pace came to a halt.
I expected it would take me another couple of months to finish “Dream Sailors.” It ended up taking four and a half. Because I am a creature of habit; once the daily motivation of word counts and monthly goals was gone, I struggled to continue.
But I knew I had something good, and the finish line wasn’t that far away. So I pushed on. I didn’t write every weekend, but I wrote most weekends. 50K words turned into 60K. 60,000 turned into 70,000.
The finish line was near.
I wrote for a couple of hours yesterday. The finish line was still near, but also distressingly out of reach. I figured I had another month or two to go.
Then I fired up my laptop this morning, and a funny thing happened: I quickly realized I was close to finishing my novel. Like, really close. Everything clicked and fell into place. This is how it works when you don’t have an outline: quite suddenly, it can all come together. And that’s exactly what happened today. I quickly realized the finish line wasn’t only within reach, it was right there, ripe for the grabbing.
So I grabbed it.
Around 1:00, I knew I was two sentences away from finishing. I didn’t want to rush the process – I still didn’t know exactly how the book was going to end, believe it or not – so I shut down the laptop and went for a long walk. I knew that I’d be mentally engaged in the ending and would come up with something, so I left the house and let my mind wander. 45 minutes later, I had my perfect ending. So I came home, added one final paragraph, and then typed the two best words in the English language – “The End” – and that was it.
“Dream Sailors” is finished!
“Finished,” of course, is a relative term. It’s simply a first draft. Now I have to go through and edit the whole thing. After finishing “No Time For Kings,” two years passed before I actually published it. I am 100% certain the process will be quicker this time around, but I’m still months away from publishing. And I’ll have to decide whether to go the traditional route (try to find an agent and a publishing house) or self-publish again through Booklocker. My experience with NTFK has been nothing but positive. I may very well end up going the same route, and there will be no shame in that if I do.
It’s all a little unreal. I did not wake up this morning thinking I’d finish the novel I’ve been working on for so many years, but lo and behold, it is done. So I’m drinking wine in celebration and allowing myself to bask in the glow of a job well done.