Stagger Forth, Bloody And Triumphant

My fingers have been busy little word-worms today. I did one last push, banged out a cool 6k of word count, and harnessed the last fading coal fires to kick the pistons into gear so I could cross the 68,617 word threshold on The Novel. (I’m so tired and bleary-eyed, I don’t even know if what I just wrote makes a lick of sense. Too bad, faithful readers; don’t look for this post to make much sense.)

So, on pause today is my Shame Is Awesome essay, because today, I feel no shame and no pain.

Regarding this new-old novel–

Will asked me, apparently in all seriousness, “How do you know it’s finished?”

Which is a bit cruel, you bastard — it’s like like looking at what somebody just painted before asking, “Is that a tree? A dolphin. Maybe it’s a dolphin. You’re not done, yet, right?”

That being said, let me put it in perspective. Let’s talk about what’s been going on with this project.

Way back here, I talked about the novels I’d written, or in some cases, tried to write. One of those was this little lady, right here:

April, 2006. Codename: Miriam. Story about fate and freewill wrapped up in a young woman’s deadly power. This one actually has promise. Dove deep into this one — a 65,000 word almost-finished original. The writing actually doesn’t suck, and the character of Miriam remains one of my favorites. See, the thing is, when I started with the screenwriting thing, I mentored under Stephen Susco, who, outside of being a generally rad dude from Bucks County making it big in LA-LA-Land, also had a chief specialty in “adaptations.” In fact, I won the year-long mentorship with a writing sample from this project. Stephen helped me adapt my own work for the screen, and I adapted this unfinished book. The script — finished — is, I think, pretty solid. Ideal goal would someday be to go back and re-novelize (adapt the adaptation?) the project with the plot from the script. (Mind you, this one is almost in the “finished” category — I did write an ending for it, novel-wise, but it’s horrendously “tacked on.” So, this one floats between “unfinished almost-crap” and “finished super-crap.”)

This is what I just finished.

The first draft was an incomplete novel, with a complete (but crappy) outline.

Second draft was the script. It was much tighter. The original novel was a wild, rangy thing — a surly young stallion what didn’t want nothin’ from no how. In workshopping it with Stephen, I think both plot and story tightened significantly. Still not perfect, but nothing is.

Third draft ended up being a novelization of the script, but that never got off the ground, and it was woefully incomplete and didn’t capture what I wanted to capture.

I decided to have another go. I knew the story and characters inside and out. I knew where it needed to go. I knew that, above all else, it just needed to be fucking finished.

Time came, then, mid-May, that I was hellbound to rewrite it from word one. And that, I did. I reattacked it from a new angle, gave it greater narrative impulsion by using the present tense, and launched forth with a “slow-and-steady wins the race” outlook. I followed my old outlines, deviating where necessary. And today I stumbled, blind and blistered and thirsty, over the finish line.

Back to the question, then: how do I know it’s finished?

Strictly speaking, it’s not. This is just the first draft (er, of the fourth draft), so the work is far from done. Tons of titty-twisting yet to occur. The good news is, coming off of three other drafts, it’s a lot stronger than it has any right being. I’m not usually happy with something once I finish it, but this, I’m happy with. I’m very, very confident, here — a rare place, for me.

That being said, I know that the story is done. I knew it was finished when I hit all the tentpoles, when I was able to scratch off the last line in my outline (metaphorically, not literally), when my characters put the story down and wandered back into the darkness (though, the main character, Miriam, has more stories in her; I’ve got two more long-form tales to tell of her, yet, and am likely to think of more. She’s a character I love and despise dearly).

It’s the culmination of years worth of work. For reals. Years!

What happens now?

Now, I chill out for the rest of the day. I eat some candy or drink some gin. Small celebrations are in order.

Not long after, though, it’ll be time to road-test this baby. Get it out, kick the tires, see how it rides. Then, once she’s fast enough and armored tough, it’s time to attack.

I just have to figure out the attack plan, is all.