Since summer 2008 I have had a work-in-progress. Though that term could refer to any unfinished business, it’s one I learned to use when I took up this so-called “writer’s life” that translates to a manuscript. In my case, one that is seemingly taking forever to complete.
“How’s the book coming?” I’ve been asked that more than I can count. The answers have varied from “slower than Black Strap molasses in the winter time” to “I’m on a roll, making progress.” I prefer the latter. Progress is better than stuck molasses. I don’t even like molasses.
Bum glue. Push through. $#!tty first drafts. Vomit on the page. Those are all terms thrown around by writing coaches to encourage us to get the first draft finished. Then the real writing begins, they say. Oh boy! Something to look forward to—another two years of living with these characters in my head? Say it isn’t so.
One author told me to listen and let the characters take over. He warned me that my husband might not like it and might think I’m neurotic. He was close to right. Actually, my husband recognizes that look on my face when I’ve gone to “that place.” He smiles and is reassured that I’m working. Got to love a man who’s okay with his wife having fictional demons in her head.
One reason it has taken me so long to complete this first draft is that I’ve studied the craft of writing simultaneously. I’d write a bit, read a novel, write, study a book on writing, write, read another novel, and so it went.
I interviewed people who lived or worked in my setting, people the same age and stage of life as my characters, walked where my characters would walk. I researched, eavesdropped, took notes and pictures.
I joined three different writing associations to network with other writers and authors at meetings and conferences. I’ve taken writing retreats to a cabin, one sojourn to a B&B, and met with a mentor several times. I’ve tweeted, posted, and blogged. It’s the combination that puts me where I am today—on the cusp of completion.
As if studying for a final exam, in preparation of writing the final chapter, I went back to review video steps done by the Plot Whisperer, Martha Alderson, and took my very marked-up copy of her book Blockbuster Plots Pure & Simple to cram during a manicure today. (I had to get the fingers ready for some fierce typing.) She sent me a direct message tonight that included the words, “Just write it. You’re ready.”
So with encouragement from my Muse of the West Coast, I will push through to the two long anticipated words, “The End.” It is then that I finally will be able to call myself an author.