The Bittersweet End

Like everyone else, there are events in my life that will stay with me for as long as I live. Some are happy, some sad, some produce feelings and emotions that are impossible to explain. I’ll never forget my first date with my wife, our out-of-the-ordinary costume party backyard wedding, the birth of my daughter, the death of my father, the recent loss of my job that has set my life off on a different path I’ve dared dream of but never expected could happen.

The thing that all these occurrences have in come is that they only happen once in a lifetime. I will date my wife over and over again, but it will never be quite like that first time.

But something powerful happened to me today that has happened to me three times previously and will happen to me many more times in the future.

I finished the first draft of a novel.

It’s an unusual time in the life of a writer. The first thought is that there should be elements of relief and pride at finishing a huge undertaking, and there certainly are. This novel, Spirit of the King, is the second in the two-part Khirro’s Journey epic fantasy (find book 1, Blood of the King here). The two volumes together are around 270000 words and began about eight years ago (Blood was the first novel I ever wrote). Believe me, it is a relief to have it done. There were definitely times I wondered if the day would ever come. It finally has, so the first thing I do is sit back, sigh deeply, and feel the weight lift from me.

Good-bye, Khirro.

But there is a sadness in the completion of a novel, a sense of loss. Once that relieved sigh has cleared my lungs, the realization that my friends are getting set to move away sinks in. After today, I won’t see them again. I lived with these characters and this story for so long, spending hours at a time with them, sneaking them in whenever I could find a sliver of space in my schedule  like they were my illicit lovers, my dirty little secrets. Some days, my family might have wondered if I loved Khirro and his friends more than I loved them. I didn’t, of course, but I do love that motley crew of adventurers, and I’m going to miss them.

Once the sadness begins to settle and the knot in the writer’s throat unties itself so he/she can breathe again; once the danger of breaking down into sobbing fits in the middle of a coffee shop has passed, another realization dawns: the work has only just begun.

Next comes the editing. No writer (except for the guy who was the teacher of my Writer’s Digest writing course a decade or so ago…more about that another time) spews eloquent phraseology and poetic description on their first try. My manuscript will go through the meat grinder three or four times before I even consider letting another living human look at it. Many writers despise this part of writing but, to me, this is the best part. This is where I take the clay I spent so long making the proper consistency by adding just so much water and the right amount of mix, and turn it into a sculpture, a vase, or perhaps an ashtray…I get to decide.

So though my friends are moving away and we won’t get to hang out anymore, I’ll get to relive the memories over and over during the next months as I edit and rewrite, rethink and reimagine, until my sculpture is just so, and then I’ll show it to you in the hopes you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

And that’s when a writers emotions move into the final stage after the completion of a novel: nervous pride.

So what`s up next for me? A couple days of planning, then I start the third Icarus Fell novel while I’ve got Khirro simmering on the back burner. I might even try it as part of  NaNoWriMo since I have some time on my hands.

See you soon, friends. See you soon, Khirro.

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One thought on “The Bittersweet End

  1. Finishing a rough draft is a heck of a triumph. Editing is such an entirely different beast that I tend to look at the two processes as almost working on two separate books. And while there is something bittersweet about reaching “the end”, I tend to look at the positive aspect, as you have: shaping that lump of raw matter into something beautiful. =D

    Good work, Bruce!

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