Arriving Where I Started

I felt it burbling away in my belly last week, a little rush in the blood, a tugging smile. The End was moving up to meet me. I worked late Wednesday night, the words pouring out in a rare torrent (I am the slowest damn writer, let me tell you). I stopped before the final scene. I wanted to complete it in the daylight, when I could rush out of the house and tell someone—anyone—that I had finished my novel, at last.

Late Thursday afternoon, I wrote that scene and typed THE END. Then I burst into tears.

Eighteen months. I started in early July 2012 (The First 10,000 Words chronicled). I wrote through a miscarriage, two surgeries, three weeks hiking in Ireland. I wrote as I sensed my husband’s professional world coming apart, I wrote as the betrayal sent us into a tailspin of anger and bewilderment. I wrote while we picked up the pieces and moved to a sweeter life, in a place so rich with beauty and peace it makes my heart hurt. I wrote through a half marathon and a four-month sidelining injury. I wrote through one job I quit, another that collapsed. I wrote through the most glorious summer I’ve had since I was five and through a descent into depression that caused me to doubt my worth on this planet. I wrote through the guilt of not bringing in a paycheck. I wrote even though I was writing crap. I wrote through the lead softball of doubt that grew in my gut like a tumor and despite the snickering demon on my shoulder. I wrote through rejection and criticism. I wrote because I didn’t know what else to do. I wrote to finish. I wrote because the most important thing isn’t to see the novel published. I wrote because my heart was bursting with a story and the most important thing was to get it out.

These past months—since I got into a plot pickle in July and decided to begin the revision process—have been about weaving together the strands until I got to The End. It took longer than I thought, for I had to untangle so many knots. I came within days of chucking it in, but I powered on out of sheer spite. I WOULD FINISH. Even if every page ended up in the shredder or shoved into a box in the closet, I WOULD FINISH. I learned doggedness from running so many races in ridiculous pain. It’s the only way I know what really matters to me—if I keep after something, no matter how much it hurts, I’ll look back with gratitude at lessons learned.

In late October, I fell in love again. I switched my protagonist’s point of view and found her voice. She, at the eleventh hour, told the story she’d wanted to tell all along. Suddenly, things flowed. Flowed inexorably to The End.

And there it is. If I tally the words that have lived in this story since July 2012 (never discard ANYTHING), I get 167,264. Actual finished first draft: 105,047.

Now what? Well, here’s the thing. Now the real work begins. I have weeks, possibly months, of revision and rewriting ahead of me. I have to decide if I’ll pursue traditional publication—seek an agent, try to land the novel with a publishing company—or dive into the world of self-publishing. I need to power through a substantive series of story, copy and line edits in the next two weeks to deliver a complete manuscript to the publisher and agent I pitched to in October, fulfilling a delivery promise by the end of the year. After that, I need to walk away for a few weeks. Start something new. Refresh. I need to find a handful of beta readers I trust to give me honest, respectful, constructive feedback (any volunteers? Seriously). Then I need to begin the revisions all over again.

I took a day off writing to enjoy a day of play with my husband. Today I regrouped. I drafted my revision plan. I’ll share it in my next post. It’d be great if you shared yours.

But for just this moment, let me feel the glow I felt typing these six letters: THE END.

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

T. S. Eliot

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29 thoughts on “Arriving Where I Started

  1. Congratulations! And I love and admire you. You bring so much joy to all around you. Anytime you doubt yourself, remember that we are all here rooting for you.

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  2. Congratulations, Julie. What an incredible journey. It’s been wonderful getting little glimpses of it here on your blog.

    I cannot wait to read your novel. I don’t think I have the technical expertise to be a beta reader, but as soon as it’s available, I’ll be digging in and will anticipate it in the meantime!

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  3. Congratulations! Enjoy those sweet feelings of achievement; you’ve earned them. It’s so encouraging to read this because I too am writing the last few pages of the “big effort” and it’s both scary and exciting. Good luck with the next stage. And maybe we can exchange manuscripts once we’re finished editing. Nancy

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  4. Congratulations and may that wonderful memory of typing those two little words stay with you forever. Can’t wait to read the finished product, only a matter of time now and taking those necessary steps, one after the other until another end, the one that precedes the book falling into our hands, – publication. On y va!

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  5. Congrats on finishing! I rarely read novels or anything else as I seem to always get interrupted, put it down and never get back, but would love to read your novel. Holly is a voracious reader and could give you the YA perspective.

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  6. Wow. Good luck. Your talent speaks volumes. You could write about the birds and I would probably read it lol. I look forward to following you on the rest of this journey if you have time to keep us posted.

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      1. Hey thanks for joining the ride. It’s been amazing so far and I am definitely hooked. I can’t seem to get thoughts to “paper” fast enough and I now have a mild form of insomnia. I think only a writer would understand this but I could close myself off from the world completely for a month and be happy just to have uninterrupted time to let my brain loose. The adjectives you used above are greatly appreciated.

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