January 28, 2003

Here it Comes

This is why the title of my weblog is Rob's Writing Pains. Since finishing the first draft of the book this past Saturday, I've found myself obsessing over it as I often do over the things I write. I can't let it go. My mind skitters back and forth through the memories of writing this 513-page beast. I remember starting it, all the hope, the expectations, the certainty that I was writing something bigger, something powerful, something that might hurt to write, but when it was all done I'd know I'd pushed myself to the limit and created a damn good story. But I also remember the many, many days of writing and feeling nothing. I didn't particularly hate the work, but it wasn't blowing me away either. Now this is par for the course. You can’t spend four and a half months working on something and not have bland days. But what worries me isn't the trudge through the middle, but the last 100 pages or so where I remember pushing through, but not surprising myself, not exciting myself, and certainly not feeling the well of emotions I'd anticipated when I developed the premise for this novel. What am I getting at here? I guess I'm worried that I fell short of the mark, that what I've written isn't the extraordinary story I'd dreamed for it, but rather something bland, without emotion, stock--a lame imitation of the thrillers on the metal racks at the grocery store blazoned with authors' names you've never heard of before.

The whole point of this novel (started in Holly Lisle's Writing the Breakout Novel class) was to dig deeper, create a story that was more than just a good read. But I'm afraid when I typed "The End" I might have failed. I didn't feel the twist in my gut or the shiver of emotion I'd expected from finishing this novel. And the questions I had hoped to answer remain unanswered. Maybe this is just post-first draft blues. But I'm not so sure. My last novel took a lot of revising, but even after that first draft I knew I'd written something with heart--so to speak. There was even one scene that brought me near to tears. Can that kind of emotion be unearthed in a second draft? Or have I swung so far from the mark that what I have is unsalvageable? I don't know. I don't have enough experience to answer these questions. All I do know is that I'm not going to give up on it. I am going to revise this book; I am going to continue to dig deeper and raise the bar; I am going to see this through until the end. Then, if I still feel as though I've failed, at least I'll have gained the experience to take with me into the writing of the next book.

I am afraid I might have failed. But I’m not sure I can trust my memory either. Buried among the clutter of bad days I can recall days I believed in the work and realized I had things to say I had no conscious intention of saying in this book. I wonder if those memories will be waiting for me when I sit down and go back through the novel a second time?

I hope so.