I interrupt this series of posts on writing with a bit of news.
The revised manuscript of BLACK WOLVES, volume one of a new epic fantasy series, is complete and has now been emailed to my editor at Orbit Books. It’s not the longest book I’ve written by a long shot, and unfortunately it is not the shortest either, running as it does to a little over 700 pages (that’s about 225,000 words in the font I use).
At the moment I have no easy way to explain this novel except that it is about how the past pervades the present. I can’t even figure out a handy Chthulhu meets Pokemon shorthand description, not yet anyway. The story is set in the same universe as the Crossroads Trilogy but is specifically written to stand alone from that trilogy (you do not have to read the earlier trilogy to read this).
It’s almost 1 a.m. as I write this so I’m not sure I can do justice to my feelings.
I was about a third of the way into the first draft of this novel in Summer 2013 when my father was told that his cancer had returned and he entered hospice care. I could not write first draft during the last 2 months of his life, and I could not write first draft for several months after his death, which meant I could not work on this novel. Somewhat strangely, I was able to revise the already completed YA fantasy manuscript, so that’s what I worked on.
However when the YA was complete and turned in, I picked up Black Wolves again and the work became a morass. I always hit a point in every book where I think it is the worst thing I’ve ever written; where I wonder if I should stop writing; where I think maybe THIS TIME I have really lost my writing chops and should just quit while I’m ahead.
I call this phase of the process the Chasm of Doubt.
Tied as it was to my beloved father’s passing, Black Wolves became a grueling emotional and psychological battle. I pushed through a monstrously uncooperative first draft (with the encouragement of Karen Miller, Andrea Chandler, and Paul Weimer) that to be frank was a mess. I seriously considered abandoning the novel more than once because I thought I could never get past the despair it engendered in me (not the story; the book itself).
But I’m stubborn, and my editor insisted that I absolutely could fix the things that didn’t work because the stuff that did work was all there ready to be polished and shiny. Plowing through revisions was almost as hard — and seemed to take just as long — as writing the first draft, and I want to thank Tricia Sullivan in particular for saying the words I needed to hear to not give up.
Yesterday my sister said to me that it was time to let the book go and stop worrying about what it is, if it’s good, if it’s worthy. It is what it is. It’s done. Now it has gone to other hands. What happens next I don’t yet know.
But I do know that if there is one thing a creative artist needs it is sheer stubborn persistence, the ability to trudge on and on despite the mire, to just keep going even when you despair the most and the road seems impossible, impassable, and endless.