Almost a month ago exactly, I wrote ‘The End’ on the first draft of my novel. I printed it out and set it aside – yes, literally in a drawer – to marinade in its juices until I felt ready to tackle it again. Meanwhile, the end of school revelries, birthdays, professional obligations, family demands swept over me, pulling me under, all but drowning me in waves of joy and salt, of midsummer madness and unknowable sadness.
But now it’s just me and those 150+ pages of single-spaced writing eyeballing each other. I already know I have to take out some scenes, add others, move things around. I know I will wince when I see redundant adjectives and adverbs, will frown at repetitions, will fiercely attack typos and careless grammar. I am sure so much will escape me still…
And in the meantime, I continue to read and review crime fiction. Many writers say that they stop reading in their genre when they are writing a book, but I’ve been writing this book for 12 years now! Still, the reason for avoidance – to steer clear of contagion and envy – is becoming obvious. Gone are the days when I could read a thriller purely for fun. Now, if it’s a bestseller, like Simon Kernick or JoNesbø, I wish I could have that pace in plotting (even if they are light years removed from my own style). If it’s the wit and prose that win me over, like Stav Sherez or Patricia Highsmith, I flame up in desire to achieve that standard. And if it’s poorly written, I wallow in pools of self-pity: that I am unlikely to get published, when there is so much crime fiction already out there.
Yet none of these writers, admired or envied, are there with me. None of my friends, online or off, can be there with me. I step into the ring of fire, all alone. I know nothing about grilling except for the eating. I probably have the wrong weapons with me: my glasses, my pens and my notebooks. This time, it’s a battle to the death – and only one of us can emerge victorious.