Yes, I turned in my third book, THE POLTERGEIST EFFECT, this week, and am experiencing that ecstatic rush of endorphins I hear women feel after going through the bone-crushing pain of delivery and finally giving birth – you know, that nasty seductive chemical trick that nature plays that makes women think they would ever want to get pregnant again…
Finishing is a relative term, of course – the revisions on this one are going to be pretty brutal. But even this stage of finished is such nirvana compared to a month ago when I was seriously telling my bf I just wasn’t going to pull it off, this time – this book was just not going to come together in whatever lifetime I had left.
And I meant it.
I’ve been told that I’ve said this before. I don’t think it was ever as true as this time, but maybe… in which case I really must get tattooed someplace on my body where I will always be able to see it: “You always feel this way at this stage, just shut up and keep writing.”
Actually, that’s a tattoo that would really hurt. Maybe just “Keep writing” for short.
Now, I was familiar with this stage in screenwriting. This would be the time about two weeks before deadline when my writing partner would pitch a fit, screaming that it would never come together, storm off and disappear for two or three days, in which I just kept going, stitching things together, basically faking it, and by the time he calmed down and came back, both of us could see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, and after the light at the end of the tunnel comes that blissfully anticipated stage – critical mass – and once you have critical mass, you know you’re going to have a script. He needed to step back, I needed to push through. It wasn’t exactly a fun thing, but it always worked.
The thing is, I always had faith that I’d be able to pull a screenplay together at the end. With a book, you’re talking about a much more massive thing that you have to pull together, four times as long as a screenplay, and it’s not just the story that has to work, but the prose and the emotion and the suspense and every single little other thing.
I knew I could finish this book eventually, but I thought it might take years, like, you know, Stephen King takes to write his books. (And I have this train of thought in the back of my mind, now… how can I work myself into a position that I CAN take two years to write a book if I need to…?).
So maybe I just have to get used to the much newer feeling of thinking a book is never going to come together and do whatever it is I did to push through this time. The trouble is, much like a woman in labor, I already don’t really remember what I did to push through. There was depression, there was writing in bed to trick myself into writing at all, there were thoughts that my career was over, of having to find something else to do for a living… I think possibly there was a deal with the devil… but it’s all kind of a blur.
On a practical level I threw out chapter after chapter, especially in the first hundred pages. Oh, right, I threw out the entire end, too. I restructured. I changed the villain. Did I mention that because of a sort of impossible deadline I was trying to “pants” this one? Never, ever, ever again. Ever. Allison Brennan must be some kind of witch to write that way, because no normal human being could pull it off. I’m going back to an 80 page outline for the next one, thank you very much (and my next one is a short story, btw).
But I hope that three’s the charm and that it is now a little more ingrained in my deep subconscious that I CAN pull it off, even when it feels like a book will never come together. The tattoo might help.
Because even after all that trauma and self-doubt and loneliness and despair, I am thrilled that this book, this world, these characters, this mystery, now EXIST. That’s the thing that keeps me writing, even as battered as I feel sometimes. It’s so awesomely concrete. A book exists that did not exist before. No one else could have written it. It came out of nothing, and now it’s an entire, living, breathing world.
THAT is a miracle, and I am so very grateful.
So tell me – what do YOU do to push through whatever you need to push through? Do you need to be reminded that you CAN?
Again, all commenters this month are automatically eligible to win a signed hardcover of THE PRICE. I’m pleased to say our lovely and talented regular Catherine is last week’s winner – Catherine, would you e mail me an address: alex at alexandrasokoloff dot com
RIP Tim Russert… you are already missed.