“On the evening of October 1st, 2012—I completed the largest manuscript that I’ve ever written. At 257 single-spaced pages, at 146,322 words, this is the most ambitious project that I’ve ever executed. After almost 7.5 months it is finally finished, and while there’s still so much work to do (editing, revising, editing again), I’m so grateful to everyone who’s asked about the process and posted encouraging comments to Facebook when it seemed like each of my posts was an update on page numbers and word count. Tonight, I rest. And then tomorrow? Back to work.”
That’s what I posted on Facebook about three minutes ago when, not five minutes before that, I finished the initial draft of the second major manuscript of my lifetime. That I finished it, brought it to the point of completion, is no surprise to me. This manuscript has been headed to realization for months, since I never stopped working on it. For weeks it was roaring towards a crescendo, which it hit about two weeks ago, but hadn’t gotten a resolution until today (because I was traveling, you see). I knew that I was going to finish it today; I knew that the manuscript would be done before midnight. Still, to hit this point is exhilarating. I’m ecstatic. Tonight, I will sleep soundly.
But for everyone who wants the raw numbers, I’ll stop talking about myself for a minute because, let’s face it, who doesn’t love literature-related statistical figures?
My newest creation, tentatively dubbed “Radiant Regret” clocks in at a decisive 257 pages. That weighs exactly 146,322 words. My computer says that the file was created on February 27th, 2012 and that means it took roughly 7 months and one week to finish. Or, exactly 217 days. That equates to 674.294930876 words per day or, if you prefer, 1.18433179724 pages per day. Both those numbers are inaccurate, because the reality is that I tend to write in huge bursts (where I’ll get anywhere from 3-15 pages done) and then go long tracts without writing anything at all. But you get the idea.
To give you a more general idea of pacing, I began chronicling my efforts via sporadic Facebook updates, which I’m glad I did not because it helps me better understand my tendencies and behaviors as a writer. Does that mean I’m going to change anything about my formula? Hell no! I just finished a manuscript! That’s SUCCESS, right there, and I’m not changing a damned thing. Still, it’s cool to talk about.
I wrote the treatment for the manuscript in late February but it wasn’t until mid-March that I worked on it in earnest, racking up about 50 pages before school demanded my attention again. By late May I was at 100, though a terrible bout of writer’s block, easily the worst to hit during the process, set in. Typically, I hit that road-bump around page 50, but it took 100 pages this time around. Suddenly, the concept wasn’t as interesting, the novelty had definitely worn off, and I felt directionless. I felt lost. Then, I went on vacation and read 3 books and at night I tapped away at my iPad, pushing the story forward in the direction that I wanted it to go and that I needed it to go.
If you are a writer, an aspiring writer, or just someone who’s wondering how the hell a vacation and three books cured writer’s block, here’s the secret: reading beats it every time. Also, I’m sure the weather, the pool, and the bountiful supply of margaritas helped. But that’s another story.
At the start of July the writer’s block was soundly defeated and I was sitting at 130 pages. Near page 150, around mid-July, writer’s block started nagging at me again. The pacing slowed as I entered the last third of the novel, where the narrative becomes character-centric and the plot becomes less flashy. But I like to think this wasn’t writer’s block but a simple re-identification of what this part of the manuscript was about and what it needed to do, strategically, in order to carry readers through to the ending.
My goal all along had been 200 pages. 200 was my magic number, if I could just hit that I’d be fine. I could consider the endeavor a success but by my birthday in August, at 180 pages, it was blatantly obvious that I would bulldoze my target. By how much? I guessed an optimistic 15-20 pages or so. On August 22, I hit the magic number: page 200 had been written, and still the story roared onward. The manuscript demanded more pages, it demanded more life, and onward we moved. A friend of mine wrote, at the time, that I needed to keep writing until the story was finished, not until I hit a specific page count.
With that in mind, I threw myself headlong into September, powering through to page 250 about two weeks ago. Then, today, I wrote the last 7 pages, culminating in my absolute joy.
To get to this point, to reach the metaphorical summit of a long and sometimes arduous climb, is a sensation I’ve never been able to capture in words. Imagine that you’ve been on that climb for ages and then, at the top of the mountain, you seen in the valley below whatever it is that makes you happiest. For me, it’s the thrill of what comes next. What other stories are there to tell? What other worlds and characters remain for me to discover? How the hell did I accomplish this in the first place? Is this how artists feel when they finish a painting? Is this what a director feels like when he watches his film? I don’t know. All I can do is liken it to an enormous sensation of achievement and fulfillment.
At this moment, I want to thank everyone who contributed, everyone who suggested and advised to my success. I especially want to thank my sister Alex, who’s equally responsible for this completed manuscript. She supervised it and edited it in its earliest form, from treatment to manuscript. She hasn’t read the ending since she’s away at school. So I’m jittery like a kid on the first day of school and I hope that, when she gets her hands on the ending this weekend, she finds it as rewarding and endearing as it was to write.
Again, tonight I’m going to sleep like a baby. But tomorrow, I’ve got to plan the damned sequel.