Thursday, June 12, 2008

Finishing, Now the Down-side

I finished my book last week. I gave it to a trusted writer friend for honest feedback. I sent it to my agent. I wiped my hands, the brand-new engine freshly built and bolted. I let the hood whack shut in supreme pleasure at the sound, buffed the bumper till it shined.

Sure, there would be comments, suggestions, questions. But the book was as good as I could make it. My abilities could execute no finer prose. Then, reality. No sooner had I paid for postage, I was leveled with a stomach virus, followed by a cold and sinus infection. My friend's feedback, while spot-on and brilliant in its insights, arrived mid-illness. To extend the metaphor: the car did not start. A tire fell off. Someone forgot the battery.

Me: sick, tired, bed-ridden. Manuscript crisply cornered on my agent's desk awaiting appraisal. Too many problems to name in the story. Potential disaster.

Does Dan Brown have this problem?

Finishing, the Up-side

Finishing a short story or a novel completely rocks. You wrench office door clean off its hinges, bursting forth in proclamation, "I'm FINISHED!" It's the grown-up science fair project on the due date--sheer joy as that sucker backs in on a flat-bed truck to the amazement of your peers. You walk around for days in that buttery glow. You're like the guy who tells everyone his cholesterol dropped a hundred points: "Guess what?" you say even to strangers, "I finished my novel." It's true. People will pretend to be in awe. You'll look down your nose at the inferior fiction in Barnes & Noble. You'll wear black turtlenecks for a few days, and you might even tell a stranger, "Yeah, I'm a novelist. Just finished my latest book." You won't even think how to get past the next question: "So where can I buy your book?"

After all, when the book is still warm off the printer and you've stacked the pages so tight they resemble the ream of paper freshly torn from the wrapper, after you've named it, written your acknowledgments in your head, chosen your beautiful epigrammatic quote, after you've cast the movie in your imagination--you gawk, you imagine it's your first child from the womb. You think, I did that. Here's my contribution to the world. Something from nothing. Story and character, man in conflict with himself. This is your golden period--no criticisms, no rejections, no reason to think editors won't fight like kids in a sandbox to publish it. And it's OKAY. Bask in it. Enjoy it.

The darkness will come later.