It’s a shambling bramble patch of a draft, but the novel formerly known as “Irish Roots” has now been written through to the end. It’s about 100,000 words, prints out as 350 pages. I’ve been working on it since February 2008. I was boosted in my efforts by two workshops and a local gang of scribblers we call the Brain Trust. They helped me jettison “Irish Roots” for “Rite of Return” as a title.
Specifically, I have no idea what I’m going to do now beyond setting it aside for a while. I’ve been slingshotting between elation (I iz Novelist!!) and despair (the hero and heroine don’t explicitly declare their love for each other, I have yet to name several secondary characters . . .). The thrill of seeing the pages I typed roll off the printer, after I’d bludgeoned it into cooperating with my writing software. I can listen to non-Irish music without guilt; maybe I’ll even change my banner graphic to, say, a scene of urban Los Angeles.
Generally, I can’t overstate the degree to which “finished” is different from “outlined” or “progressing” or “nearly finished” as far as my attitude about my writing. I do have some trepidation about what will happen when I start revising (one question being, how exactly does one revise?), but I’m asking while in possession of a book. Now I know what this novel is: which possibilities made it into the final chain of events and which didn’t.
I’ve got some other deadlines to follow up on, some other projects that now get their chance in the spotlight. I’ll read a couple books I’ve picked up about editing; read a couple novels people have recommended that have nothing to do with Ireland. I’ll get some rest and forget what I was fretting about in scene 76. Then I’ll sit down with the printout of “Rite of Return” and some colored pens, and read what actually ended up on the page.
Legalists may be laughing as I stagger around in happy shock, pointing out that I finished a novel during NaNoWriMo as well. That is true, and this is different.
Maybe because it’s longer, or I worked on it longer. NaNo was such a sprint it didn’t quite become a habit, either the writing or the attitude. Maybe because this is the book that I started when I decided to take myself seriously as a writer. Or maybe it’s because now I have two: while “Rite of Return” percolates, I’m going to be revising “Deception by Proxy,” not sitting back wondering what to do next.
Maybe it’s because self-doubt can creep in at any stage: we can forget all we’ve ever done and feel like we’ve just now established ourselves at any point in the time line. No, that can’t be it.
None of the book takes place in Dublin, but I looked at a lot of Irish web sites getting myself in the frame of mind. Here’s a slide show of Dublin front doors.