Exactly a year ago this past Sunday I finished my final draft of an epic fantasy novel I had been working on for five years. It had been a long and arduous process.
I finished spell checking and knew I loathed the whole thing.
One of the many things I learned from that novel is that I fervently believe George R.R. Martin: you should never attempt epic fantasy as a twenty-something in exactly the same way you should never attempt a land war in Asia. I was young. Unskilled. I should have started with haiku–but you never listen to your elders until you fall on your face. By the time I had written and re-written that book (five times over the course of five, increasingly depressing years) I had killed everything I’d ever liked about it and was considering enrolling in Primal Scream. I had loved that book, obsessed over it. By the time it was done I’d never hated anything more.
Sitting at my kitchen table, I knew, in my bones, that this was likely the end. As expected, the agency who’d liked the first few chapters, never responded once they’d seen the whole thing. I couldn’t blame them. The thrill was gone. Not only from that book–from my entire writing life.
What a surprise then, to find myself, a year later, sitting here with a second original novel on my hard drive. A completely different book. A complete book. It took less than a year to write two decent drafts.
Does this mean the new book will be published? We’ll see. I’ve been researching agents and plan to send it out soon. People congratulate me like I’ve actually accomplished something, but writing and publishing aren’t a “presto-change-o!” kind of thing. Amy Bloom once likened writing a novel to having bubonic plague for three years. Certainly, this can be the case. The more you care about something, the easier it is to get lost in it–and that’s what happened to me with my first novel.
I’m glad to find out that I can recover. That time and distance can be a remedy to Beasts and plague. And I’m glad I did struggle and waste a lot of time, because I can now say I took a genuine stab at the Craft. Each pitiful moment I gave to the Beast made my way easier for my current bichon. Also, I did a lot of yoga. Oh so much yoga. I can do pigeon like a rock star.
Anyway, that’s where I’m at right now. Flexible. Cautiously optimistic. When next we meet, the Beast and I, I just might tame it’s bubonic-plague-ridden hide into the dirt.