It’s been a long time since I hit this point.
Since Saturday, I’ve spent nearly every free moment at the keyboard. When I haven’t been programming, or running, or shipping t-shirts, I’ve been writing or getting my head ready to write. (It’s hard to tell the difference, I know, but an awful lot of my goofing off on Twitter is occupying the overactive part of my brain so that the smart, reasoned, thinking part can figure out what I’m working on.) Travel always throws my rhythms off; it takes me days to feel like I’m back in my life enough to get words out. In May, I travelled twice. Once to New York, and once to EpicNerdCon 2012. Though I’ve made progress on Mimesis through the month, it’s felt like a milestone – the big milestone, the one that’s second only to actually finishing the thing – has been hovering just out of reach. With my mind free of travel and obligation, the road to that milestone suddenly seemed clear.
I’ve talked before about how I hate beginning stories. It’s no surprise, then, that I really love ending beginnings. There’s this point in a long enough story where you can feel the road turn and slope down. The beginning passes out of sight, and the heavy cart you’ve been pushing up the hill for what feels like an eternity starts rolling. It’s when everything you’ve been setting up starts to pay off. It’s when the chemical reaction reaches critical mass and becomes self sustaining. It’s when things get real.
Mimesis is a story in four parts. Last night, I reached the end of the first of those parts. As I raced there through the weekend and the early part of this week, I felt the cart crest the hill and start to roll down the other side. For the first time since I began writing in February, Mimesis felt like a novel. It’s been so long since I wrote something this long, I’d forgotten what a thrill that was. The last time I felt that shift in weight and momentum was six years ago, in a condominium in Ft. Lauderdale, as I listened over and over to Yoko Kanno’s “Tsuki no Mayu” and finished the chapter that’s become inspiration for Broken Magic’s cover.
That shift is as terrifying as it is exhilarating. It’s the point where I start questioning if I’m writing the right thing at all. All the other things I could have written start to look better, more poignant and more salable. It’s the point of no return with a story, when I have no choice but to commit to seeing it through. Seeing it through means months, maybe years of writing, rewriting and querying. If this is the wrong novel; if this is immature, or shallow, or boring, or dishonest, past this point I’m stuck with it. So, as I bulldozed through two chapters, I turned again and again to one of my writing heroes, to a quote that’s stuck with me since I read it a decade ago.
Write. Write tenaciously. Write neverendingly. Write fearlessly. Never give up your dreams. Never compromise your soul for a buck. And be willing to take risks. Don’t listen to the people who will tell you, with every desire to be helpful, that you should play it safe and leave such foolish dreams to others, because they don’t want to see you get hurt.
– J. Michael Straczynski
It got me through.
Where does that leave me? I’m now 32,500 words into the novel. I wrote 6,100 of those words between Saturday and last night. If I’ve estimated things correctly, it’ll be about 90,000 (total) words when it’s done. I know word count might not mean a lot to you (even a lot of my writer friends look at my thinking-in-word-count thing like the work of a disassociated mind) so here are some points of reference.
32,500 words comes out to about 86 paperback pages. That means, if I don’t go wildly under or over my word count for Mimesis, it’ll end up being around 240 pages. Broken Magic came out to 73,000 words. I’ve written almost half the length of my first novel(!!!), and I’ve done it in about a quarter of the time. It also means I’m 1/3 of the way through Mimesis. I’m behind the schedule I set at the start of the year, but if I can keep on, if there aren’t any major disasters or long stretches of lazy procrastination, I can have a first draft of my novel done before the end of the year.
Milestone reach. Fatigue in progress. Celebration mode enabled.
Now to keep the cart from crashing into a tree on its way down the hill.