I’m finally coming to the end of my current WIP, Every Hidden Fear, Skeet Bannion #3. I’ve done that final work of figuring the details to make the final plot complications and twists and set up the outline of the final scenes of the book. This entailed the hard work of looking at what was missing and what I didn’t know, listing all those questions, and then writing and writing and writing and pacing around and talking out loud and tearing hair and writing and writing some more. Until it finally all came together. Now, I’m ready—really, enthusiastic—to write those last few scenes.
Yesterday, I wouldn’t have been able to say the same thing. Yesterday, I was losing that fight against doubt that we all fight when we write novels. I wasn’t clear that I could finish it in any good way in the time I had to do it in or that what I’d written to get to that point was really any good. That’s the way this novel was written. Handed a deadline much earlier than expected. Frantically trying to catch up to where I should have been if I’d known I would need to start it much earlier. Feeling my way a footstep at a time through the pitch dark, never sure I wouldn’t walk myself right off a cliff. Telling myself I could do it again and again when I wasn’t sure I really could.
And yet, isn’t that always the way we write novels? Even when we have no deadlines—or very reasonable ones? Even when we think we know for sure just exactly how we’re going to write it? Don’t we usually hit a point where we suddenly wonder if all the work we’ve been doing isn’t just so much crap? Don’t we usually hit a point at least once where we’re just not sure if we can finish the damn thing?
Writers are funny creatures. We have to believe that we have talent and something worth saying. We have to believe that we can create worlds and people and stories that others will want to read. But at the same time, if we’re actually going to be any good, we have to question everything we do, every idea, every character, every plot development—every word, when you get right down to it. We have to constantly believe that it isn’t good enough, or that we can make it better and must—or we’re likely to send self-indulgent, lazy work out into the world. So somehow we juggle that supreme self-belief and that pathological self-doubt (or at least stern self-questioning) in a way that allows us to bring forth new work that has never existed before. As with sausage-making, it really isn’t wise to look at this process very closely or for very long.
So, tonight, ebullient, I’m sure that I’ll finish these last few scenes and that, with some judicious editing, this will be a good book. I will probably rescind that decision when I sit down to begin revisions, once more under the gun in ridiculous fashion. I will probably tear hair and cry and doubt that I can actually make this sow’s ear into a silk purse of a book. But that’s the schizoid process of writing. I know that. Most writers do. We fool ourselves into thinking we can do it, only to find that, by Jove!, we actually did do it! It’s nowonder so many have had drinking and drug problems and that suicide is an occupational hazard. What is surprising is how many times over the years so many of us manage to survive this screwy process and bring forth yet again another book—not the work of genius we’d like to have produced, but a solid, sound, readable book.
Here we go again, the brave and neurotic writers of books. We who are about to do the impossible salute you!