- by Emilie Richards
Picture ten to twelve hour workdays, weeks of them, the final deadline looming closer and closer as your publisher makes delicately worded threats about losing a favorable publishing slot. Picture going to sleep at night and continuing your story in dreams with disembodied characters who make perfectly sensible conversation about cinnamon toast and unicycles which, upon waking, makes no sense at all. Picture wishing that the elves in a popular fairy tale, who were so kind to a certain shoemaker, will suddenly pop out of your computer keyboard and type in the remainder of your book. Picture: me.
Okay, that’s not me, but all I had to do was type “frazzled writer” into istockphoto.com and I suddenly had my choice of photos of other frazzled writers. We have our own category. We are legion.
Now picture the day the book wings its way to New York. Dancing, singing, collapsing in a field of yellow wildflowers.
Yes, this time it IS me. Too tired to get up again, yellow flowers and I becoming one for hours, until an understanding husband leads me home for dinner that he cooks. Happily ever after found, right? Not so much.
“The end” is a great phrase. Last week I ended my new novel for Mira Books, Happiness Key, after cutting 60 pages, editing and revising one more time, then reading the entire 700 page manuscript out loud. Finally I sent it off. Oh joy, oh rapture.
Well, not exactly. First I packed for a week long booksigning event in Houston, then I did said event, which included all the usual airplane snafus, restaurant meals, and wonderful conversations with readers. Then home again to clean the house for the quadrennial election party, have party, clean house post-election party, then start work on the new website in the making.
Now why am I keeping myself so busy? True, a lot of things piled up while I was on my marathon sprint to the finish line. I have bills to pay. My desk looks like a shipwreck. I have important email I’ve put off. I have a husband who thinks spending a little time together would be a welcome change. So yes, there are things that must be attended to. But am I sorry? No. Because staying busy is a good thing. I’m going to miss my characters.
Typing “the end” has major pitfalls. Before I became one with those lovely wildflowers, I also became one with my characters. For most of the past eight months I was Tracy, Alice, Wanda, Janya and Olivia. I knew them better than I know my grown children. I was privy to their every thought, thrilled with their accomplishments, tolerant when they screwed up, and constantly impressed with how well they listened to my suggestions. They were family of the best sort. I enjoyed our afternoons at the beach, the way we pitched in and helped each other with the inevitable problems that dog the female of this species. I helped them decorate their houses, make peace with their lovers and husbands, solve two mysteries. We were a team.
So where are they now? The moment I typed the END, my friends bit the dust. Their stories are complete, and we’ve all moved on. But this time, just like every other, the end feels like the END. What’s the point of going forward? I keep losing the people I love. They move on to printed pages, then to bookstores, then to the shelves of readers who, hopefully, love them as much as I did. But they leave me.
There’s a period after a book is completed when a novelist has to re-enter the world she left for so long. That’s not as easy as it sounds. And despite the sense of relief when a project is completed, it’s not as much fun, either. Luckily there’s a solution around the next corner.
The next book.
I know some multi-published authors who spend less than a week between novels. I understand. Today I found myself looking over notes for my next one. I won’t work on it tomorrow or the next day, but the BEGINNING is calling me again.
The beginning. A lovely phrase, isn’t it?
I can hardly wait.