Our Stories

Minerva and the Nine MusesI finished my novel. It’s weird to type those words out and even weirder to say them aloud. The reality is that I don’t feel anywhere near finished. Though the last chapter has been written, the word count is more or less static, and the ending is as good as I could have hoped for, I don’t feel like it’s over. Maybe that’s because of the tall task of editing that awaits me in the coming month. Or perhaps it’s because I don’t want it to be finished. I feel incredibly sad that I have to now leave this world.

I’ve never felt like this after putting the last period on one of my novels. Before, the last few chapters were always a sprint to the finish line. More than I wanted to have written my best work, I just wanted to be done. That’s sort of how I feel about my final exams. It’s a dangerous way to stick a landing, though. As a reader, you can always tell how an author felt about her own writing. You skip the parts where she probably yawned as she wrote, you wonder what the hell happened to the plot twist she forgot about, you know when she wrestled with the ending and gave up on it. As a reader, you learn about the author, even if the work is far from autobiographical. You can tell by the way he treats his characters if he is sympathetic or dead inside. You can tell by the way he throws polysyllabic words at you if he takes himself very seriously. You can tell by his use of clichés if he’s lazy. And you can be damned sure if he rushed the conclusion.

This book is different from all the others because I was patient with it. It’s the book I’ve been trying to write for more than two years (according to Microsoft Word, I created the first version of this story on October 14, 2013 at 5:15 pm). The first draft stood at nearly 114,000 words — it was monstrous, nearly double my first novel. When I got the first comments back from my agent, I realized that I had underestimated the amount of editing it needed. I rearranged the whole thing, chapter by chapter, filling in the gaps as I went. That wasn’t enough, either. One of my agent’s readers suggested I scrap the entire first half of the book. I did not take to that suggestion kindly. My agent’s last email regarding this manuscript was lukewarm. I cried when I read it, and I decided that it was time to move on. A part of me knew that this story was too much for the green writer I was at the time. I had taken everything I had and poured it into the novel, but it wasn’t enough.

I started the first draft of this novel days after I finished this painting.

I started the first draft of this novel days after I finished this painting. Maybe I got too excited about writing, because I completely forgot about the horse’s bit. 

So I waited.

I wrote a fourth novel, something light and age-appropriate. I thought that it was a good read, for the genre it served, but my agent disagreed. When my agent and I finally broke up, I took a long break from novel-writing. Instead, I dabbled in poetry and avoided contemplating my literary career. When I felt ready to pen that opening chapter again, though, I knew that I wanted to go back to the story that had eluded my grasp for so long. I thought maybe I could salvage some of the first manuscript, but in the end I only incorporated one scene into the current draft, and that’s the one I’m going to efface as soon as I start editing. Now, I’ve got nearly 110,000 words and most of them are going to stay. Because this time, I’ve given everything I have to this novel, and I think it might be enough.

Many people have asked about my creative process, but the truth is that I don’t have much of one. Most of the time, I don’t feel like anything more than a transcriptionist, waiting for the Muses to dictate. I didn’t sit down and create these characters and throw them in different scenarios until I found one that stuck. Instead, they each invited me into their world, showed me who they were, and blessed me with the privilege of telling their story. This novel is full of things that I couldn’t have imagined in a million years. It’s full of people who I’ve never known in real life. It’s full of history that isn’t mine.

Because it doesn’t feel like I ever owned this story, I have no problem handing it over to friends, strangers, and foes. It feels perfectly natural, obligatory even, to share this book with all of you. If I could somehow disseminate a copy of it to every single person in the world with the guarantee that most of them would read it, I would. And that would be all that I needed. Unfortunately, it seems that readers care about things like publishing companies and a New York Times Bestseller label. In a month or so, I’ll begin the whole process of querying agents and editors all over again. Then, if all goes well, someone will bid on it and claim ownership to it. For now, though, this story is all of ours. I hope that someday, it will be all of ours again.

If you want to read it, shoot me a message. All I ask for in return is that you tell me what you thought of it.

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