Sunday, August 29, 2010
The Home Stretch
So I'm entering the last month on my WIP. First drafting, deadline wire up ahead. I find this horserace to be a time of great exhilaration, desperation, excitement, consternation and frequent trips to Starbucks.
Even though I've done this dozens of times, it never feels like, "Hey, I've got this so nailed. No problem!"
I'm looking at all the story threads, balls in the air, knowing the ending I'm heading for but wondering how I'll get there. In my head, I know I will, because I always do, somehow.
But in the heat of battle, writing each day, I feel like a Spartan trying to hold off Xerxes at Thermopylae. And I suppose I wouldn't have it any other way (especially if I was ripped like Gerard Butler).
Here's why I wouldn't: to be in this battle is to be alive. As Jack London once said, "I'd rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist."
Writing well is about being alive, about being out on the wire over Niagara Falls, about jumping on the back of Bucephalus and grabbing some mane. Ray Bradbury once described his writing day as getting up each morning and exploding, then spending the rest of the day putting the pieces together.
It's about running a race ahead of a mob of angry, torch bearing townsfolk. It's about skiing down a mountain ahead of an avalanche.
It's about being open to all the fantastic things you can't control, then finding ways to form a pleasing shape out of them.
Being alive, truly alive, means a degree of uncertainty. It means risk. If there's no risk, there's not going to be any lasting reward. If your reach does not exceed your grasp, you'll just keep grabbing the same old leaves.
This is nowhere more pronounced than when I'm heading home on a novel. Now is that time. I'm shouting like Slim Pickens riding the atomic bomb at the end of Dr. Strangelove.
When I am at the keys and moving the fingers, I am kicking all doubts into the pit. "This is Sparta!"
What about you? How do you usually feel on the home stretch of a novel?