Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I have finished a novel and if ever it was my baby then now it is only a terrible teenager that loathes me and my parentage

I just finished the last edits on my sixth novel, "Suicide City." It feels so incredibly good to be done. Of all the reasons it could feel good to be done, though, I think I'm just incredibly glad to be finished with this monster.

I should be glad that my sixth novel is the first I intend to submit to agents and editors with vim and zeal. I should also be glad that it is a novel of which I am in the main proud, which I actually completed and upon which I affected multiple revisions/rewrites, and which ends as strongly as it begins (endings being always, for me, the hardest thing about writing stories--short or long). But I am mostly just glad that, barring the interest of some publishing-industry professional, I will never have to look at these 85,000 words again.

Some people say that their projects--whether art, some business venture, or whathaveyou--are their babies. "Suicide City" was a grim enough baby when it was born (although it's really not as grim as the title suggests). But over time it matured and one day I turned around and it was no longer a baby. It was a grown thing with ideas of its own, a will of its own, and very little regard for the wishes of its parent. Not that my wishes for it ever really changed, mind you. It's just like that boy the father desperately wants to have play football, but who grows up to be a sensitive artiste. Or like how Hitler didn't really think France and England would come to the aid of Poland. In short, I cannot fathom the soul of my own offspring, because in it I can no longer entirely see my own self. I see only it: the book that has become a novel.

And that is another good reason not to work on this thing anymore. Actually, for most of this round of edits, I was convinced that I'd need to take another pass at it, basically just to cut words out and clean it up. But by the end of this pass through the manuscript, there were whole "editing sessions" where I would simply lean back in my chair and groan. I wouldn't even edit: just groan and wish it were done. That doesn't usually happen to me when I'm writing, but I think I hit the point where the novel had become impenetrable to me in any critical fashion. Not that it was bad, or that I didn't like it, but that I could no longer see it with a clear eye. It is reified, now. It is a novel, now, and not just a work in progress. And so it will pass out of my hands, and if someone out there wants to help me take it to the next stage, I will be very glad. But "Suicide City" has, quite literally, a story of its own now, and I can't really seem to think what else to do with it. It's grown up.

Still another reason it is good not to work on "Suicide City" any longer is twofold: because of the odds, and because of the distortion of value that occurs with vested interest. Shopping my short fiction around the short fiction marketplace has taught me that one can expect little in return for the enormous amounts of effort one puts in, and at best a general rule like "try to sell a hundred things, maybe find one person who's maybe interested in one thing" can be adopted. That my sixth novel is the first I try to sell is because the others were horrible, and as such my chances of success are quite low. But there will be a seventh novel, which will better the odds, and which, besides, will be a better novel (the other rule having been learned en route to moderate short fiction success being, "the crap becomes less crappy the more crap you crap"). The second fold as mentioned above is that if I continued to work on this one novel, I'd risk ending up like all those indie authors on Twitter who tweet, over and over and over again, about how great their one book is. One book is never great, and even a dozen books may contain only one good book. (This lesson is learned not just by submitting your fiction to magazines, but also by looking for books and magazines worth reading. Not even everything that is bought, paid for and published is any good.) I have to move on to other things, or risk stagnating, or just believing far too much in this one project.

So I am really super glad right now that I have decided this work can go in my "COMPLETE" folder (yes, it is really in all caps, that's my bag). I put my foot down at the end and actually didn't even re-edit the last two chapters. One of them had to be re-written a few days ago anyway, and the other was super solid. That is how I justify that decision, but mostly I just want to see what value this thing might have for others and, if none, disown it, because I can no longer do anything with it. I don't want it at all to sound like I'm not happy with it: the opposite is true. But a million more projects exist to be undertaken in the future, and I'm just happy that I finished it and that, despite the fact this baby became a beast, I like it.

-bn

3 comments:

  1. Awesome. I can't wait to read it.

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  2. This is a pretty big day. Congratulations!

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  3. Thanks, gentlemen. Only problem is now I don't know what to do next...

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