September 5th, 2016
I have been here before. Dragging my feet. That curious reluctance to get down to the novel and finish it off. Why? Because it’s what I don’t want to do: to finish it off. To say goodbye.
Is this really the end? Well, almost. All I have to do now is read through and edit the final pages before I print off what is supposed to be but won’t be the final draft. I have polished the text over and again, until it is now surely publishable. But the first printed version will not be the final draft. A text that looks fine on screen will show tiny blemishes in print. Some will be actual errors (how could I have missed that?) while others will be infelicities in style. I shall fiddle, I shall tinker, and by the time I have finished (is a novel ever finished?) practically every page will bear a mark of some kind. With luck, they will all be minor changes – many of which could have been picked up by an editor – and there should be no such calamities as: oh no, he couldn’t have done that because I killed him off two chapters before.
All of which takes longer than one might think. There is still quite a lot to do. Even so, this final printout feels like an end; the job is done. Print it, check it through, send it to be published. But I’m reluctant to let go – even though I know that making those final corrections may take two or three weeks. So the novel isn’t finished. It will be soon – by the end of September.
And what then?
September 19th, 2016
I really have been here before. In my last diary entry I explored the reluctance most writers have to finish the text and say goodbye. And yet… And yet. As I make my final tiny changes – a job that cannot take longer than another two weeks – I find myself straying down a familiar path. The novel that occupied my last twelve months is done (barring minor changes) and I am as ready as I shall ever be to say goodbye – or au revoir: before the book is published I shall see it again for yet another set of ‘minor changes’. But by then I shall have moved on. The text I shall revisit will be an old text, the novel I thought I’d finished, the one I wrote ‘some time ago’.
For I shall be working on another book. That is my ‘familiar path’. In the last year I have, as a writer, thought of little other than the book I have been writing. But now as I make final adjustments, and as I edit rather than create, my thoughts drift way from the work in hand towards what may become the next book I shall write. At this late stage in the old novel, when I am working almost mechanically, I am at the same time exploring fresh fields: what shall I write next?
I think I know the answer. For all these months I have had few fresh ideas; I have been too preoccupied with Mother Naked. But now – and this is the familiar path – I am differently preoccupied, with a new story, a quite different story, a story I am eager to begin. That familiar reluctance to finish with the old and say goodbye has been replaced with an impatience to move on. We writers are unfaithful lovers. While we are with you, dearly beloved text, we believe ourselves fully committed but, as unfaithful lovers always will, we tire of you and look elsewhere. I have lived with you, dear Mother Naked, I have given you all I had – but I have caught a new scent now. A fresh young muse is whispering in my ear.