Finishing a Draft
{ posted: Tuesday, 4 September, 2018 at 11:20pm // views: 92 // words: 554 }

It’s been a little over nine years since I completed a manuscript. Which is not to say I’ve padded out the decade with false starts, there’s just not been anything.

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the completion of the last manuscript aligns pretty tidily with when I left Brooklyn. No car, no kids, no old house in need of repairs, just an apartment and a 9-5 job, with long evenings and weekends to drink Polish beer bought by the bottle from the bodega on Nassau Ave, and churn out pages.

In the meantime, there have been two cars, two kids, one old house in need of repairs, and a series of cobbled-together freelance assignments to scratch together a living in a rural outpost of New York State. But then the house started staying warm through the winters, reeked less of mildew, had a few exterior sections scraped and re-painted, and the kids started sleeping through the night.

And so, just over two years ago, I created a draft in Google Drive of a book I’d always figured I’d write eventually, and which I’d put down a couple of 10-20,000-word false starts toward back in the Brooklyn days, only to scrap each one. But this time I’d seemed to have cracked it. I kept going, if slowly and very haltingly. Months without a word, days with a flood of them.

To try and keep myself on it, I built a little app in which I could set a final estimated word count, and a date by which I wanted to finish, and it would tell me at any given time how many words I needed to write that day to keep on track to the goal. The deadline has changed as often as the word count–I’d initially had a guess that the manuscript would run about 90,000 words, then I broke past that last November, then stalled out again over the holidays only to wake up and find summer nearly past.

Now it feels as if I’ve reached the point where nothing new is to be introduced, no arcs need to be forced into a different direction–there is only the orchestration of everyone’s disentanglement from the knot of the story, completed by each character taking the final steps down the course they’ve started. So the current estimate of 120,000 words feels like a horizon that won’t sink any further, and the deadline of September 15th a reasonable enough time by which to reach it.

Of course the editing process I have planned will take plenty of its own time, but I can’t deny the excitement I feel at the prospect of finally tying up a story the better part of a decade since I last did so.

Managed 1,173 words today (my app calculated that I needed 736 to hit my target, so the number ought to be less tomorrow), and used the word “inchoate”, which I’ve had a forbidden romance with since encountering it in Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel in high school (“He knew the inchoate sharp excitement of hot dandelions in young Spring grass at noon”). It’s a distracting word, I think, that expresses little more than the fact of the author’s knowledge of it, but it’s always been somehow perfect and sublime to me.