Last week I painted my nails black, cast a few spells, spent two days whispering a 400+ page manuscript to myself, and then, on the evening of what would’ve been my mother’s eighty-first birthday, I sent a book-shaped thing called The Witches of New York to my keen-eyed literary agent, Helen Heller.
You’d think by now I wouldn’t get jittery during this part of the writing process, but I do. I do! (Just ask my dear family.) It’s to be expected, I guess, because by the time I reach this point, I’ve become quite attached to the story and its characters (some more than others) and I want/wish/hope/pray (for the characters’ sakes and mine) that the intrepid band of humans who’ll be the first to read the tale, might, for lack of better words, “get it.”
If I’ve done my job right, they(my DH, HH and a team of amazing Editors)will find plot and promise in the story, and we’ll move on to the exciting push and pull of collaboration that comes with editing a novel. Ah, the season of notes and changes, when a manuscript moves from being an adolescent book-shaped thing to something that can stand on its own.
Don’t ask me how many drafts it took. I honestly can’t say. My creative process was much different this time around, varying in new and interesting ways from how I’ve written in the past. Most novelists measure progress by the number of drafts they’ve produced in order to craft a polished ideal, but I chose to throw that practice out with Witches in favour of allowing myself to work on scenes “in the wild,” out of sequence, whenever they happened to pop into my head. I also used a massive pile of index cards to organize said scenes, so I could keep track of plot and characters and move them around at will. In the end, a simple experiment meant to keep my brain from getting bored, led to a leaner, meaner writing process (and a happier me.)
A couple of days ago, post writing, (while I was wondering if, despite my happiness I’d doomed myself to failure by not following the rules,) I stumbled on the following quote in the introduction of the tenth anniversary edition of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.
“You never learn to write a novel, you only learn to write the novel you’re on.” – Gene Wolfe
The quote is from the writer, Gene Wolfe, and was given as a bit of sage advice to Gaiman after he’d commented (upon finishing American Gods,) that perhaps he had now learned how to write a novel. Oh, the mysteries of storytelling! May they never cease. Huzzah for following the heart of a story and for writing it the way it wishes to be written!
Sunshine and bees
There’s still much to do before I’ll hold the finished book in my hands, but the sun is shining, the bees are buzzing and my Witches are in excellent care. I think I’ll go for a walk outside…