“How do you feel?”
I think it’s instinctual for people to ask that question when you tell them you’ve just finished a big project. And I’ve been asked it a dozen or so times since I put the last period on the last sentence of the Marlowe Kana Volume 4 manuscript. And in every single iteration, I’ve answered the same way: “Good. TIRED. Relieved.”
“That’s awesome!” the askers reply, adding “I’m proud of you!”
That means a lot. More than a lot. It means everything. Because the real answer to the question “How do you feel?” is much more complex than I let on.
This book is the hardest thing I have ever written in my life. This is not hyperbole. I am not exaggerating for effect. I analyzed every piece of writing I’ve ever produced in my head over the last seven months (because I had to do something to procrastinate on the writing, and also validate all of the worst possible things I think about my work). I compared every one of them to what I was trying to write for volume 4. This has them beat by an extremely wide margin.
Harder than the pieces just after my divorce. Harder than any of my depression or suicide discussions. Harder than the apologies I made after writing a horribly hurtful and ignorant article that played up the wrong points for “heat” and ended up burning myself. This book was hard. I can’t over-adjective this fact. This book was very very very hard. This book was extremely hard. This book was impossibly hard. Pick anything that personifies “hard” and stick it in there, and this book was all of them. Combined.
The reasons why are many, some obvious and some deeply complex. For fun, let me take you on a short retrospective of feelings I’ve had over the last seven months:
- “Give up.”
- “Seriously, I am NEVER going to get this right.”
- “I have royally fucked myself over, quitting my career to make this my life.”
- “I am incapable.”
- “I am not talented.”
- “I am not intelligent.”
- “I can’t even follow basic rules I myself outlined on how to write a fucking story.”
- “Star Wars Episode 8 was written better…” (it absolutely was NOT, it’s impossible to get a worse piece of fiction writing than that movie, but when you’re depressed, you’ll believe any sad thought)
Every author wants you to believe that they have their entire universe writ in their minds 100% perfectly, with every single decision mapped out and decided beforehand, and the process of writing the book you’re reading is simply transcription. This is so utterly not the truth, not even slightly. At least, it’s not for me, and the authors I’ve ever talked to.
Marlowe Kana Volume 4 is in an entirely different place than I planned for it to be when I started this story. Sure, many (most) of the story beats I had are there. A lot of the societal stuff is represented. A lot of the “big moments” are the moments I designed. But the characters, the people, the impact, the tone, the direction… It’s matured in ways I never saw coming. And there’s really only a handful of characters who, as of now, are doing what I originally thought they would be doing. The rest have grown. They’ve taken their own shapes and developed their own voices. They have their own goals, their own desires, their own thoughts and personalities and direction… And I’ve made myself their biographer. I have made a deal with them, and no matter how much I want things to go down my way, that is not my job.
I have done the thing every book on writing has told me to do: I’ve built a world, and I’ve given life to characters in that world, and I’ve given purpose to those characters. And now, they are in control of themselves. It’s a weird, wild thing to watch evolve. You hear from every one of your favorite authors your entire life that this will happen if you’re doing your job right. And you think “how the hell could a thing I am writing get away from me? I’m writing it, right?”
Oh, but it can. And fast.
I have become more of a Dungeon Master in a roleplaying game at a table with 12 friends i invented out of thin air, and now, they’re throwing me for loops left and right.
But I’m keeping up.
Only barely. But I’m doing it.
More later. I just wanted to get some of this out. What’s next: Rowena has the manuscript, and she’s going to make it actually human-readable. I’ll get it back and hammer on it some more, and over the next two weeks, we’ll pass it back and forth while Meghan does the cover. Once it is all done, I’ll get the book laid out, proofed, and into the hands of Patreon supporters. A week later, I’ll get it into the Amazon Kindle and print stores, and voila — another book in the books.
But first: a nap. And a drink.