After the Deathmarch

This is the third time I’ve finished a novel.

The first one, you’ll never see… I was fourteen when I finished it, and it was full of horrors. I had recently watched Romancing the Stone and I remember loving the opening scene in which the writer finishes a book and pours herself a celebratory drink. Since my parents weren’t drinkers and I was a kid, all I could find to drink was a decade-old bottle of cheap cherry brandy from the cooking cupboard. It was vile, and perfect.

The second novel is the Dickensian Fantasy for which this blog is named. It’s not finished any more–it’s back in the shop for a major adjustment–but the night I completed it was a momentous one. I finished late on a Saturday evening, and two very kind friends took me out for a burger, and after they went to bed I spent at least two hours wandering the city alone and wide-eyed.

The third, the just-completed Cossack’s Kin, was a bit of a grind at the end–I found myself getting mired in the difficult emotional territory my characters inhabited, and by the time I wrote the last words, I was thoroughly glad to see the ass-end of it. My husband and I ordered Thai food at midnight and fell asleep watching Mobile Suit Gundam.

The common threads of these experiences: I usually seem to finish in the late evening, because I can’t stand to leave the end for the next day when I know I’m close. I find I get so wound up that I don’t eat, which is counterproductive, as I lose focus and get unhappy when my blood sugar is low; but just try getting me to behave like a sensible adult when I’m in the middle of a key scene.

The fun thing, though, which I’m remembering today: I always have the next project waiting in the wings, and I start to work on it right away. It’s symbolic–the finished novel is no longer the favoured child. It’s going to make its way in the world now, while I turn my attention to its younger sibling.

In this case, it’s Oracle of the Dashboard, and I spent yesterday buying its working music (Wilco, Aimee Mann, Neko Case) and replenishing all the calories I didn’t take in earlier in the week. Today I’ve got fresh coffee and Bosc pears and three kinds of cheese, and I plan to make a beginning.

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