Around 9:00 o’clock last night, I was writing away when, all of a sudden, I realized what my next sentence was going to be. I sat back and said, “Oh. I’m here.”
It was like I’d been hiking across Canada from one coast to the other, hauling my baggage behind me, watching my feet move for months and years. I hadn’t noticed my arrival until my socks squished in salt water. All of a sudden, there I was, standing on the far shore.
I sat forward again, and I wrote that last line word for word as I had imagined it almost seven years ago.
And then it was done.
The first draft of the first book in that series had been a life-altering experience. I wrote it in 72 hours flat, my first ever novel marathon. For weeks afterwards, I had actual flashbacks. I remember distinctly this one moment when I was walking from my apartment to my car, and all of a sudden, I wasn’t there. I was walking up the broken road at Wyndham Farms toward the dormitory and the edge of the Park, and my car just happened to be there. I blinked, and the effect was gone. I’d had sleep-deprived hallucinations before, but this something else entirely. When I realized it was just an illusion, that I was back in Montreal and not at Wyndham Farms, I was devastated, disoriented, and I felt sick to my stomach. That’s how powerful an emotional experience writing that first draft was.
Imagine then, six years and nine months later, writing that very last line.
I don’t know what I was expecting. Elation, I guess. A good night’s sleep, if I was lucky. Maybe I’d cry for all the characters who <spoiler alert!> or something.
At the very least, I thought I’d feel some sense of accomplishment. Completion. Resolution.
I did cry a little, but they were tired-tears, like when you’ve been travelling twenty-six hours with delays, miserable co-passengers, missed connections, and AWOL luggage, and you’ve finally checked into your hotel room, and you know you’ve gotta go through all that again just to get home.
The trouble with long-distance travel is that, once you’re there, you’ve still got to do stuff. Even if you’d travelled for no other reason than the joy of going some place, you’ll still need to find a place to sit and bandage your blisters, and then figure out what you’re going to do with the rest of your life.
I feel like I’ve reached the shore, and now I’ve got an ocean to swim. I’m looking forward to it, but man…I need to catch my breath first, and that’s a lot of water to cross.
Historically, for every hour of writing I’ve done, I spend another 2-3 hours editing.
Now, the good news is, I’ve done most of the heavy lifting already. Even as I was writing it, I knew it was too long, so I took out whole sections that weren’t efficiently serving the plot. Normally, I don’t do that until after I’m finished the book, because I’m afraid I’ll excise some vital plot organ by mistake.
I didn’t take out enough.
To give you an idea: the first book in the trilogy is 292 pages long. Book 2, about 360 print pages (if Tyche Books will let me keep them all). Book 3 works out to about 410 print pages, which to me is about seventy pages too long. Ouch.
And I still have to put stuff in.
This is the difference between a series and a trilogy: with a series, you can keep stringing subplots along, if you need to. In a trilogy, if you leave anything unaddressed, you’re gonna get murderated by your audience. If you promise a trilogy, you can’t just giggle and say “Just kidding, it’s really going to be four books, and you’re gonna hafta wait two more years before I wrap this up.” You can’t do that. You’ve got to get it done. Wrapped. Sealed. Stamped. Delivered. Hands off.
That means, not only do I have to review every word in Book 3, but I need to glean Books 1 and 2 for any construction materials I left behind, too.
But I already know I left some things half-built. In my effort to the keep the page count low as I was writing, I did end up excising vital organs, mistaking them for fat and supernumerary limbs. That means I need to go splice in about 25-40 more pages before I start cutting. Fortunately, what I cut I saved in a back-up file for just such emergencies. Unfortunately…there’s a lot I simply missed in the first draft, and I’ve got to make it up as I go along.
But for all that looming grunt work, there is one happy result of writing that final line.
For the next few months, I’m the only person in the world who knows how it all ends.
And I ain’t telling.