Let me begin this by saying that my finishing any of my fiction works is a long-standing joke among my younger siblings and I. Nobody who is familiar with my work in this area expects me to finish. And I have stopped expecting myself to finish. In fact, the last time I finished a fiction work (outside of play and movie scripts) was a short story I finished around ten years ago called The Little Glass Slippers. In the meantime, I have started half a dozen novels, all of which are awaiting completion, except for one, which I finished early this morning.
I think I am actually more proud of myself for finishing than I am of what I wrote, because finishing has always been such a colossal issue for me, even when I was very young.
Some writers are intimidated by beginnings, but I would say exposition (the bringing forth of characters and narrative) is my greatest strength as a writer. I even work out resolution (the ending) reasonably well. I wrestle with development (the middle). I struggle determining the events through which my characters will grow and have changed by the end. When I was very young, I would set up my characters and the story, and I’d be so completely pooped by the end of that (it took lots of time/chapters), I would jump straight to the finish, by saying something like, “Ten years later so-and-so and so-and-so came together and all of their problems were solved,” without telling how the conflict was resolved. If you think about it when you’re reading, that’s the part of the story we all love, not the beginning, not the end, but the middle, yet it’s my least favorite to write. (Also, as an aside, my least favorite to live sometimes too).
To make matters worse, I revise while I write. I’ll be fifty or sixty pages in and think, “This should really be a different way,” and then I start over. From the beginning. (By the way, this is why my beginnings are so strong: by the time anyone else reads them, I’ve probably revised them a dozen times). Sometimes, I’ll hit a creative block, and instead of pushing through, I will, you guessed it, go back to the beginning and start over. I push a little bit further ahead every time I re-write, but my perfectionism has been counter-productive to actually finishing anything.
And I’m terrified. I put my heart and soul into my fiction writing. And once a project is finished, the time comes to show it to people. And people can be brutal. I’m not talking about constructive criticism about narrative flow or grammatical issues, I’m talking about people who are willing to tell a thirteen-year-old girl there is no point to what she has written. (Yes, that really happened). What if people don’t get it, and because they don’t get it, throw me as a writer to the curb? What if I make the mistake of believing them, and give up on myself as a writer? You may think that’s ridiculous, but I promise you, it has happened before.
I cried a little bit when I discovered my exposition for The Field was forty-five pages, because that meant I still had to write at least ninety pages, all things being equal. (And they were not). For the most part, when I was writing a particular chapter, it was like a movie in my head: I could see all of the different things that were happening. (I swear I’m not crazy). So when I sat down and focused myself on writing, it kind of just poured out of me. I was worried that I was never going to get to the end, because things just kept happening (in the story). Eventually, the middle built to the point where I knew I was coming up on the climax, and Sunday evening, I was able to sit down and lay out what I wanted to happen and when. I was pretty discouraged again when information I had hoped to convey in two chapters was stretched to eight chapters. Then, like I wasn’t expecting it, the climactic scene was there last night, and I was able to write the dénouement to not just end the story (I had known how I wanted it to end since the beginning) but to fully complete it.
There were times during the writing process that I became creatively blocked, and at the beginning of this particular version, I started over, again and again. In mid-August, I decided this wasn’t acceptable anymore, and promised myself I would push through any creative awkwardness to the end. My resolve in this has been tested over and over, but I pushed through, even when I had to stare at a blinking cursor for thirty minutes to do it. It helped to journal a little bit before hand, to get any other mind-hoggers out before writing. And the MOST helpful thing, were the dear people with whom I could share the bumps and struggles, and they prayed me through. (I strongly suspect there were also dear people that I didn’t share with and they also prayed me through).
Being honest, I’m still scared. I have a final edit, which could take me upwards of two weeks to complete, but then it’s time to hand my baby over to real-life editors. After that, I’m considering publishing, which would bring it to an even larger audience. I am certain there are people who will hate the message of The Field, and will develop a strong dislike for me by extension. I expect that. I also know I have people in my life who will make it all about them, when really, it’s just a story, and if they’re bothered by it, they maybe need to pray about why. These are the people I am most afraid of.
But I’m going to do it, even though I’m scared, even though I know it will never be perfect, even though it’s longer and more in depth than I ever intended for it to be. Why? Because The Field, although not my favorite work, is by far more important than anything I have ever written.
Because I finished it.