In this passage from Tom Robbins’ wonderful book “Skinny Legs and All”, a book rife with quotable passages, Ellen Cherry Charles is looking at her painting.
“She awoke at dawn, toasted some pita bread, washed it down with milk and surveyed what she had done. For the most part, it pleased her. There were contours that needed thinning, volumes that needed weight, lines to be shortened or lengthened, passages of colour to be tinted or shaded…Yet, on the whole it pleased her.”
This morning I know exactly how she felt. True, I woke at ten-thirty, and had pancakes washed down with coffee, and what I made was a novel, not a painting. Except for those minor quibbles, this passage could have been written about me. At two a.m. I finished the first draft of “The Last Black Swan”.
Yesterday when I saw David off to work I told him that this was the day I was going to finish the draft, come Hell or high water. I had only three events left to write, and one of them, the death of a character I love, was going to be gruelling to do. If I didn’t set myself a deadline, I knew I wouldn’t get through the death. And I knew that once that scene was done, it was a downhill run to the end of the novel.
It took me twelve hours, more or less, but I did it. Yes, I took breaks, but for the most part I stayed on the job. The last couple of pages were rendered particularly difficult because Comma and Felix both wanted to snuggle. They were quite persistent. No matter where I put them, they managed to block my view of the screen, or my fingers on the keyboard, or both, so sometimes I was rhyfinf vomn[ete fuuvvwtish and couldn’t even see the screen to tell.
One thing that surprised me is that I cried while I was writing the death of my character. Look, I’ve known for weeks, maybe months, that this was happening. I had to figure out how and why it would happen and write all the events leading up to it. The scene itself was less than a page long. And I still had tears running down my cheeks when I finished and had to go get a tissue and blow my nose. I was completely taken by surprise.
It needs work, and I won’t be showing it to anyone until I get the second draft written, but it is done. Now I’m going to print it out so cyberspace can’t eat it, and then I’m going to put it away for a few weeks before I rewrite. I have two other projects immediately in mind: the third novel, for which I don’t yet have a working title, and a non-fiction book on the Craft. I’m going to spend a week on the non-fiction, just for a change of pace, and then I think I’ll start the third novel.
Today, however, today I celebrate having completed a second novel. I can really do this. Once might be a fluke, but twice? Not likely.
Hot damn. I am a novelist.