The Helix Nebula, nicknamed the “Eye of God”
Years ago, I blogged about a common big question that often arises in writing.
Namely, the question of when you can properly call yourself a writer.
At the time, I’d just found “The Answer to the Big Question” in my house. This was a list explaining the various circumstances that make one a writer that I’d printed from the internet years earlier when I too was uncertain on this matter.
I’ve now been actively revising my WIP for about three-and-a-half months.
I have to admit, I haven’t progressed nearly as far as I’d anticipated, to date having reworked only seven chapters out of a total 31. And that’s not counting the fact I have to go over chapters 1-3 all over again.
As far as months go, I can’t say I care much for February.
This isn’t for the reason most might expect. It’s not the weather. For most of Canada, February is dark, cheerless, and frigid – the furthest thing from the festive winter wonderland of a couple months prior.
I experienced 30 straight years of that. But now, living on the west coast in Vancouver, February days are noticeably longer, the temperatures rest well above zero (some winters, it never even goes below freezing), and although it rains for days and weeks on end, at least you don’t have to shovel.
One chapter down, 30 more to go (in this draft)
For a while, I honestly thought this day would never come: the day I finally got to start revising my WIP.
I never set out to write a trilogy. That’s a whole lot of writing for anyone, but for me, being such a slow writer to boot, it at times felt near-insurmountable.
I’m convinced the only thing that got me to THE END of the first draft was the iron-like strength of my discipline. I may have many shortcomings as a writer, but showed up at the page is not one of them.
My first draft chapters, bottom to top, colour coded by their revision needs
It was like grading the world’s longest midterm paper.
Coming in at 402 pages and with all but the last two chapters having been written some ten years ago, I really had no idea what I was in for when, upon completing my first novel ever (technically my first trilogy, but I count it as one completed story), the time came to read through the entire first draft.
The age of the thing alone terrified me, for how well could a ten-year-old story possibly hold up? I already knew going in that I’d have a fair amount of rewriting ahead of me, but the question was how much?
If I were to equate the current stage of my writer’s journey with that of the classic Hero’s Journey, I’d now find myself at stage sometimes referred to as “The Belly of the Whale”.
Which, in my opinion, is perhaps the most perilous of all the stages – even more so than the main confrontation of the story’s climax – for at this stage, the hero still doesn’t have a complete sense of what s/he is up against; a true, Rumsfeldian “unknown unknown”.
That is to say, I’m getting ready to revise my first completed novel.
No, I’m still not finished my WIP.
But honest to goodness, this last novel in my historical fiction trilogy is truly almost done. I know I’ve written about being close before, but now I’m really close. Like, a two-digit number of pages remaining that starts with 2 (or maybe even one!) close.
When last I wrote about my WIP’s impending end, I discussed various insights that had occurred to me as I continued along this process.
Well, a new level of nearness to the end has engendered an all new set of realizations:
The morning began as most as winter workdays do, which is to say dark, and because of that, what felt far too early to me.
This year, I made a conscious effort to remember my writing birthday – to commemorate it on the actual day, or if nothing else, to at least make note of it. February 12: in truth, an arbitrarily-chosen day meant to mark the start of my first (incomplete, shelved) novel as approximated through a forensic accounting some emails I sent to a friend around that time.
I’m an Aquarius writer.
I should qualify this by saying I mean the end of my novel.
(Were I talking the end of my life, my thoughts would be considerably different, and if nothing else, I’d perhaps be referring back to this post about my bucket list.)
Ending a novel is hard. The fact that I’ve done it twice thus far in my writing career hasn’t made it any easier. Perhaps this is because only once did I consciously do so since my “two-book” series-in-progress grew to three books initially without my realizing it.
So, my WIP, such as it is, is indeed still IP.
To date, despite have been writing seriously for some six years, I’ve yet to complete anything novel-length that stands as a fully completed story – a fact that haunts me continuously.
I’d originally resolved to finish my WIP last year by my birthday, which is at the end of November.
I didn’t make that deadline, but consoled myself with the fact that I had an entire other novel to write to finish the story, my previously anticipated duology in fact being a trilogy.
But there’s still something about deadlines – something definitive and binding, which I suppose is the whole point. I almost never set deadlines. I really don’t like them, even though my “type” is supposed to thrive on them.