Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Tag: WIP

Thoughts on Completing a Novel

     I’m done.

     More or less, at least. My novel has been through three full revisions and stands strong at 175,000 words. That’s about 455 pages in paperback. It’s good. I like it. It’s done. It even has a title: The Chronicler and the Bard. Soooo sexy.

     So now what?

     I feel…

  • Light. As a novel grows it gets heavy. Doing that final revision late last night was cathartic. It was as if the book was a big bird on my shoulders that finally decided to fly.
  • Satisfied. I’ve opened Scrivener a few times this morning just to look at what I’ve done. I feel like a man who’s just finished building his house and is ready to move in. And it’s a house I can stand beside. I feel no reason to be falsely modest about this: the book is good.
  • Encouraged. This is my second novel. Do you know what that means? I’m a freakin’ novelist. That’s right, I’m kind of a big deal. And if I can do it twice, I can do it again. And again. And a-freaking-gain.
  • Sober. Storytelling is sacred. The storyteller creates worlds and, thus, mirrors God. It’s a holy thing, when it’s done right. I look at my work and am glad that I never took it lightly.
  • Hopeful. The novel is done, now I need to make it fly. I entertain thoughts of book tours and signings and meeting all my nerdy celebrity heroes. I think I’m allowed those dreams, too.
  • Thankful. I’ve always thought that creativity comes from outside. I’m thankful for that elusive Muse who’s been buzzing around and flirting with me. She led me on a merry chase, and pissed me off more than once, but she eventually gave me the whole story. Thanks, Muse. I’m also thankful for my wife, who has always encouraged me. When my busy work week is done, her first thought is how she can enable me to write more. She’s my hero. This book is for her.
  • Excited. What comes next? What do I write from here? Whatever it is, it’ll be something new. And that’s a wild thought.
  •      That’s how I feel. But what do I do? What do I do the day after I’ve completed a novel?

         Start the next one. Duh.

As the Project Ends

     I’m neck-deep in polishing my nearly-finished novel.

     It’s surprising how much of the first draft is, as Hemingway put it, shit.

     But as the revisions continue, the bad gets washed away and there is something shiny underneath. Something I’m proud of. Something I can stand beside and say, “Look at this thing I have made!” That’s a good feeling.

     I should be working on it right now, so I don’t have much else to say. Here’s a tiny excerpt. It’s the open paragraphs. The opening used to be a massive, gaudy info-dump of religious liturgies, boring histories and other world-building things that were sure to turn readers away. I think this is better:

     Pari’s cousin did not get a funeral.
     Her tiny body was heavy in Pari’s arms; so much heavier than it had been last month when Pari bounced the child in her arms. That had been a happy day. The child was a year old. Pari had just become the hakeena’s apprentice. Her relatives came with cakes and dates. Her parents laughed and smiled. Pari skipped around the house with her baby cousin.
     She was smaller than her brother, though the same age. Pari never wondered about that. Never wondered when the girl refused to eat. Never wondered at the way she slept so very soundly.
     She got sick two weeks later. And then she died. And she didn’t even get a funeral.
     Pari stood over the open, tiny grave alone. The Karvan said that a soul comes to a person once they are named. And the baby was a year from her naming day at least. So the family had not come to see Pari put her into the ground. She supposed she should not have wept so much over such a tiny baby. But there was no one to watch or rebuke her, so she wept freely.
     Even in the tiny grave, Pari’s cousin seemed too small. It was a long time before she began filling it in.
     The unmarked graveyard was outside the village walls. So was the real graveyard, but it was different. The real graveyard had markers and names and a tiny fence to keep spirits out. The unmarked graveyard was simple and hidden, unless you knew what you were looking for. Tiny bumps in the earth, some with dry grasses growing on them. None of them with flowers or sweets. None with any sort of marker. None with names because people with names were never buried here.
     Pari looked up and across the horizon. The sun was threatening to set. She had to fill the hole before dark, or else the child might turn into a demon or rakshasi. That’s what the elders said. Her back was to the village and she gazed south to the wastes. The wind played on the grasses and thorny bushes that grew in the hard, dry dirt. She took off her glove and rubbed the soil with her hand. It had been dark and soft when she dug the grave. It was dry now and crumbled at her touch. In the grave, her cousin waited.
     She buried her cousin before the sun set. She wanted to vow never bury a child again. But she was the hakeena’s apprentice. And she knew it would not be her last.

A Letter I Got This Weekend

My consciousness received a letter this weekend. I figured I’d share it.

Dear Matt,
Hi there. Remember me? You’ve been shutting me out for a while now. And I see you’ve been busy while I’ve been gone. Think you got a lot done, eh? Think you’ve made progress, eh? Well, I just wanted to drop you a line to remind you that you’re not actually getting anywhere. In fact, everything that you’ve been doing is a colossal waste of time. You’re not good enough. You’re not smart enough. You don’t have ‘it’. I’d prove it to you, but you already know it, deep down. You’ll never achieve anything worthwhile in your life. You’re too old. You’re too dumb. That’s just the way it is. So you might as well delete that laughable WIP with all of its shallow characters and glaring plot holes. Because people are going to laugh at it. The same way people laugh at you behind your back when you tell them you’re a writer. Quit trying. You’re no good.
Sincerely,
The Imp on your Shoulder

I sat around thinking about the letter for most of the weekend. Finally drafted a response last night:

Dear Imp on my Shoulder,
Sod off.

I could stop there. I could leave this with a simple dismissal and get on with my day, but I feel like I ought to give you a bit more so that you’ll think again before writing me with your ‘advice.’

It’s true that my WIP is ugly and a bit malformed right now. I’m the first to admit it. It’s like a fetus. Kinda creepy looking and not meant to be exposed quite yet. Can’t stand on its own legs legs.

But I am good enough, smart enough, diligent enough to make it walk. No, I can make it fly!

I can prove it, too. I’ve done stuff, you see. I’ve written a book. I’ve travelled the world. I’ve learned another language. I’ve produced children. I’ve spread joy and love. I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!

What have you done, oh imp on my shoulder?

Nothing.

You’ve sat there for twenty-nine years bitching and whining. You’ve never helped me achieve any of my goals. You’ve never cheered for any of my successes. You’ve never been a meaningful part of anything good that I’ve ever accomplished. I’m not the waste. You are. And I won’t let you consume me. The very fact that I’m clever enough to push you away makes me clever enough to realize my dreams.

So sod off, imp. Precedent says you’re wrong. And even if it didn’t, I’d rather die with a thousand failed attempts than listen to you and try nothing.

Oh-so-very Sincerely,
Matt