ruminations Writing

Finish The Book, Sam

Another installment in what I’m realizing is a series of book-update blog posts.

In November 2021 I wrote half of a novel. In another six months I’d finished the rough draft. Then in November 2022, I resolved to edit it so that someone could read it. Then I said I would get it done by the end of June. I missed that deadline, but finally “finished” this fall! Two finishes so far.

In October I shared it with a few beta readers. There was good news and bad. The good news: it is not terrible! Most of the readers – my friends, granted – finished and enjoyed it.

It is, of course, rife with problems. Most of them I can chalk up to the ignorance of a beginner. For instance:

  • The book opens with my protagonist, Dani, waking up. I now realize that’s a deadly cliche.
  • Dani’s emotional growth arc needs work. I failed to plan that aspect of the novel before writing it.
  • Beta readers universally disliked my handling of a small romance subplot. They are right.

This is, in one sense, the worst news. Were the manuscript irredeemably bad, I would be done. Actually finished. But I believe there’s a chance it could become a good, solid book … with a lot more work. And it would be a shame to waste that chance. Argh. I was so glad to be “done” and finally hand it to people!

It has been satisfying to discuss the world that only lived in my head with others who have now visited it. They had good questions and ideas for making it better. Now I need to steel myself and commit to re-entering that world, not leaving until I’ve shored up its weaknesses as best I can.

If I buckle down, could I make the changes in … two or three months? The rewrite list isn’t enormous. For instance, I’m not changing the perspective from 1st to 3rd person, a task I would not accept.

Discussing this at Workantile, my friend Anthony reassured me that I do finish things. And I have finished things. Now I need to keep finishing. I hope I can find the focus and willpower to finish until this is actually Finished.

I keep coming back to this quote from an old interview with Andre 3000 about releasing imperfect art:

As an artist you can sit and tinker with stuff forever. You can add and take away but I think that’s kind of the importance of having someone over you saying, “We need this, this is a deadline.” Sometimes those oppositions or those who push and pull are needed because we’ll just sit and tinker forever. There are actually songs on The Love Below that were not finished, but that’s how they are, that’s how it came out.

I just knew I wanted to put that [imperfect song] on there, but it wasn’t done, but it was enough.

The GQ&A: Andre 3000

The worst would be to sit on this book and not keep improving it. It’s not timeless material and I need to wrap it up and move on and stop having it paralyze me. So I think I need to say, February is the deadline. I hope I work hard on it until then and fall back in love with the story and the process. But even if I don’t, or I only complete some of what I hoped to, it might be time to say, it’s enough.

In the meantime, feel free to ask me about the project and encourage and/or shame me depending on how it’s going!

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