I think I just finished my second novel.
Writers (like housekeepers) know that “finished,” is a tricky, debatable, overly hopeful word. But one definition of “finished” could be:
In June 2002, you start to write a disjointed collection of scenes from roughly 39 points of view. There are chapters written as poems, chapters from the point of view of a woman who runs the local bed and breakfast in your fictional town. You think it all adds up to something profound about History, Identity, Lesbianism and Postmodernism. In October 2003, you finish your pile of scenes and call it Draft 1.
In April 2004, you pick up your pile of scenes and decide it’s time to start working on Draft 2. This involves writing more scenes from more points of view: the girl who starts a “womyn’s” colony, the guy who owns a lot of mules.
In June 2004, you start taking Terry Wolverton’s “One Page at a Time” class at Writers at Work and quickly, sadly, discover that a pile of scenes does not equal a novel that anyone would want to read. Over the next year and a half, you learn about this thing called “plot,” and even though you never quite like it or believe in it, you start to see how maybe it could help you say all the profound things you want to say about History, Identity, Lesbianism and Postmodernism.
You finally, finally learn to do what you only pretended to do throughout your entire MFA program: revise.
There is a draft you call Draft 1.5 because it only retains two or three scenes from what you referred to as Draft 1. There’s a Draft 2, a Draft 3 and now there’s a Draft 3.5 because it is only slightly different from Draft 3. But in a way it’s Draft 5.
And it’s ready to send to (gulp) agents, those mythical creatures who did not invite you into their magical world with your first book. Still, you hesitate to use the word “finished,” because what if an agent likes it but will only take you on if you make certain changes? And you’re almost certain that not everyone in your smart, supportive writing group would agree that it’s finished. Someone wants more Meg, everyone wants less Petra and one guy would like your novel to be more like the movie Braveheart.
You’re not sure if, by calling the book finished, you are taking a decisive and necessary step, wisely realizing that no book will satisfy every reader…or if you’re being a lazy editor, which you have been known to be. Either way, you’re wrapping this baby up, hoping that there’s a publisher out there who cares about History, Identity, Lesbianism and Postmodernism. (Anyone? Anyone? Incidentally, the book also features fashion, ghosts, missing persons and at least two somewhat graphic sex scenes. I’m just saying.)
You are finished. Until further notice.