This is the end, my only friend…

12 years in gestation, 2 years in the writing, 98,000 words in the making… and yesterday, finally, finished.  I never had as much satisfaction writing ‘The End’ as I did on the first draft of my novel.

So why does it not feel like more of an achievement? Why is the relentless thrumming and mournful wail (perhaps even the shouty anger) of the song ‘The End’ by The Doors a more accurate reflection of my feelings?

Perhaps because I have had this novel hanging over me like a bad conscience for so long that I have fallen out of love with it.  Or because I already know that the first draft is inconsistent, the voice and tone shifting as I have grown more confident with practice (or with age). I already know there are gaping holes and inaccuracies, wonky timelines, characters that need some space to grow beyond the stereotype.  But the plan is to let this badly written (but written, yes, nevertheless written) first draft lie in its marinade for the rest of the month and then do a rapid rewrite during July.  This rewrite will give it a unified voice (hopefully), plug the gaps, be a rapid brushwork like in a fresco once the damp plaster has been put in place.

Just to give you a sense of  how much I’ve been procrastinating: the germ of the idea for the story came to me in about 1997/98.  I let it stew in my head for about 10 years, then plotted out the storyline and added some characters in 2008.  But its existence was still limited to the confines of my head and nowhere else.  At that point I was focusing on writing and submitting short stories (for which I have no talent) on all sorts of topics (most of which completely unappealing ) for competitions that terrified me, simply because I was convinced that only by winning a competition would I find a publisher for my (as yet unwritten) novel.

Enough with the parentheses!

Then in May 2010 I attended the Faber Academy course on getting published. I was a bit cheeky attending it really, since I had not written a single word of my novel yet. One of the requirements for attending was that we bring along the opening chapter or the first three pages of the novel.  So, the night before the workshop, I hammered out 3-4 pages and read them out.  The noises were encouraging.  Much better than I deserved. The editor who ran the course, the cooly realistic yet very inspiring Hannah Griffiths, gave me the best advice I’d ever had up to that point: ‘If you want to write a novel, why are you writing short stories?  Write the novel! Don’t waste your time on competitions if you don’t want to be doing that: in the end, none of these awards count as much as the quality of the work you are submitting to an agent or a publisher.’

It sounds obvious, but it took a while for the penny to drop.  I still dithered, I still hid behind my a million other professional and family obligations.  But I did unofficially join NaNoWriMo in November 2010. Unofficially, because, well, I did tell you I don’t like publicly committing to challenges, didn’t I?  Somehow, don’t ask me how, I successfully wrote 50,000 words of my novel that month.  I continued some sporadic writing over the next couple of months, but then in February 2011 or so it ground to a halt again.  Another Faber Academy course in May 2011 reignited my fire, despite the huge personal changes I was going through at the time.  And no, honestly, I am not paid to advertise for Faber, but I can wholeheartedly recommend the fantastic Gillian Slovo and Sarah Dunant as tutors: they really make a good team, with their contrasting styles but equal passion for words and stories.  However, NaNoWriMo in 2011 was a bit of a failure, with me only managing to churn out about 20,000 words and the novel still nowhere near completion.

February 2012, however, was a turning point.  Yes, I know I keep saying that, and I know that I shouldn’t depend on external events so much to motivate myself.  A true writer always finds the courage and inspiration within his or her own self to keep going.  But at the time I needed a push, a small dose of encouragement liberally sprinkled with reality.  And I found that at the Geneva Writers’ Group conference, particularly in the words of Bret Lott, Naomi Shihab Nye, Susan Tiberghien and Dinah Lee Küng.  Since then I have left fear and procrastination, busy-ness and conflicting priorities behind.  I have written every day, set up this blog, started sharing my work with others, learnt to accept critique.  But still, still, still, no progress with my novel, even though I was so close to the finishing line.

End sign

And now, in a slow, steady trickle over days and weeks, this past weekend my world (of anxiety, procrastination and invention) and my novel ended.  Not with bang, but a whimper.  Or a long-drawn out breathy wail from Jim Morrison.

Take your pick!


24 thoughts on “This is the end, my only friend…”

  1. Ooooh, well done ie WELL DONE!!! Fantastic news 🙂

    I’d go for the long-drawn out breathy Jim Morrison wail every time!

    Let’s hope the NaNoWriMo/Po peeps realise the benefits we get from them – it’s good to see that many others supported you along the way – maybe there’s hope for me and mine yet!?!

    Congratulations again, so pleased the first draft is in the bag 🙂

    1. Of course there is hope, always hope. Sometimes it’s only a hair-breadth (a few days, a few minutes even) between agony and completion. Good luck with yours and thank you. You have been a great support for me as well.

  2. Well done on finishing your novel, Marina. You’ve had quite a journey – isn’t it funny how when we achieve the thing we’ve been working for so long, it sometimes feels like an anticlimax? Anyway, moving on … what’s the next step for you, after your manuscript-resting and quick rewrite?
    Can we read some? 🙂

    1. Thank you, both of you, Jo and Honore, for wanting to read some. I feel terribly uncomfortable about sharing it in this rough form, but as part of my Jeff Goins challenge, I am supposed to ship off and share some of my writing today. erm….

  3. Eager to read you my friend, and congratulations for completing this work, admiring and not a little… envious? 🙂 x (and yes, can we read some?)

  4. Whooooot! Well done, you, that’s amazing. Never mind it took a few years in the making, you persisted and you got there. I think what you’re feeling is an odd sense of bereavement. Huh? you say, but bear with me. Think about it. This novel has been with you for what, 12, 15 years? It’s been an enormous presence in your life. Suddenly, it’s done. Now what?

    Now you face the task of going back to it and beautifying it. That’s daunting, and the sweet innocence of ‘just writing’ has gone. No wonder you’re left… bereft. But do you know something? Writing ‘The End’ is merely the beginning. This is where it all starts. After letting your MS marinade, you’ll go back to it inspired. You’ll find that it’s much better than you thought (yes you will, I know you!). You’ll find scenes that leave you in downright awe (did I really write this?) and others that immediately tell you they need to be axed, or reworked. So, do it. But don’t fret on it. Consider it like a work project because increasingly, that’s where you’ll be taking your writing career. Wear your professional hat, and you’ll find that actually, editing and polishing and all that ‘stuff’ comes easily, as it has always done.

    Very soon, you’ll be sharing your future bestseller and I can’t wait to read it some day in the future, please!

  5. Congratulations!!! I know the feeling well of finishing a project. I’ve done several fanfiction pieces which have been fairly well-received and which have lit my fire for finishing my original novel. I hope you will post segments here for us to read, and I know you will do a great job on revisions. I love the NaNoWriMo people! 2010 was when I finished my first ever novel. (It was a fanfiction piece so it won’t ever go anywhere else.) That November was a time of personal turmoil for me as my husband had to have major surgery and then lost his job. To be able to finish 50000 words was a major acheievement and one I will always remember.

    1. It is amazing, isn’t it, how much you can achieve in NaNoWriMo – wish I could keep at least half that pace all year round… Thank you for your comments and I hope you and your husband are both OK now.

      1. We are fine. Moved to a new state with our boys when he found a wonderful job with a medical software company. We’ve been here nine months now and are loving life.

  6. I came in here to say pretty much the same thing Nicky just said. Not to hammer the marathon mentality thing, but one thing marathoners suffer from is a bit of depression after the completion of a marathon. They have been working their butts off for so long, that when it’s over, they don’t have anything else to look forward to, nothing to focus on. That’s why it’s good to have something else on your table, just waiting for you to pick it up as soon as the novel (or marathon) or whatever you are working on is finished (I’m going to write a post about this–thanks for the inspiration!). So, that’s probably what you are going through.
    At any rate, congratulations!! This is an amazing achievement! I am so excited for you, and the exciting thing is, you have gone through the learning of publishing, so you are a step ahead. If I keep reading your blog, I’m going to end up an author. I didn’t know you gestated this thing for ten years. I thought I was the only one who did something like that. I have written about 120 or 150 pages of it, but now it’s gestating. I should pick it up and work on it after my marathon 😉 You inspire me!!

    1. Aaaw, that is so sweet – and you definitely inspire to take my running seriously again too!
      Long gestations…. hmmmm…. I think I’d better pick up the pace with my next novel, or I’ll never be a published author!

  7. Bonjour Marina Sofia!
    Oh! I am so encouraged that a fellow procrastinator has finished a novel. Even if it took blood, sweat, and 40,000 cups of coffee. Love your poetry too – so much talent – definitely time to let the world in on the little secret that is YOU!
    Looking forward to reading more of you – especially throughout the Jeff’s 15-day challenge.

    1. Thanks for visiting, Felecia – we fellow procrastinators need to stick together and kindly give each other a gentle kick up the … occasionally!

  8. You stop any negative thoughts and feel VERY proud! A finished draft (first, second, twentieth, or final) is a major accomplishment. Congrats!

  9. I followed your link from the Great Writers Challenge comment section and just wanted to say GOOD LUCK!

  10. Congratulations, Marina!! I am very proud of you. Anyone who can produce a novel is a hero, heroine in your case. I am willing to be a guinea pig reader if you want to send bits and pieces. Usually, with my short stuff (for my novel is in an artificial coma), I have great difficulty separating from it, especially in its unpolished form. The next part, I believe, is probably the harder part … getting published. I wish you very good luck. 🙂

  11. Thank you so much for your wishes and kind offer. I think I need to work on the edits quite a bit more before it is ‘shareable’ – I posted a tiny bit of it the other day and find it quite embarassing (raw and uncouth). My novel was in a coma for such a long time, too, so hang on in there!

  12. To write a novel is such an achievement…so well done! I would love to write one some day, but I can imagine it will take me a good few years, too….The main thing, I guess is to start it! lol….congratulations 🙂

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