How does one know when a novel is done? There’s some sense that what began as a spark and murk in my mind is clear now, but that conviction is shaky. After months of adding to scenes and rearranging paragraphs, my revision of a novel for middle readers funneled down to deleting sentences and changing some words. This weekend I combed the manuscript for dropped punctuation or explanations. There’s never certainty of success, but I have a sense of being done deep down, close to where the knowledge that here’s- a –novel-I-must write began.
“I’m sad to see these characters go,” I told a friend.
“Can you write about them again?” she asked.
“I’m not that sad,” I replied.
Finishing one book makes an opening for a new one, and that’s always exciting. I have two manuscripts I’ve begun, and the research for one means looking at paintings and reading poetry. Still, there’s some sadness to coming to the end of this round of the first contemporary novel I’ve written, and the first that uses magic. Even when my books about girls or women in history were published, I love revisiting them in other books, museums, or historic sites. And while those books drew both from the past and my personal experience, THE LOST NAME feels true to me in a new way. None of the characters are much like me, and the plot depends more on a fairy tale than anything I’ve ever known. But there’s some knowledge of silence, differences, trust, and family that feels as if it comes from something in my bones.
And it is lovely to send off a manuscript toward the end of golden and green October days. My dog is enjoying his first fall, bouncing along a road he’s galloped and pranced along almost a hundred times already. I’m the one who walks. But yesterday in the woods, in the wind, I did a happy little spin for if not completely-finishing, then coming close. Finishing is a word I’ve learned to use loosely. But also enjoy, like the leaves that change color one day, then drop the next, opening a wider view. We love what we write, when it’s not making us crazy, and we’re meant to let it go. And move on ourselves, at least until that manuscript returns with its tidings of joy or woe and, in ways we can’t expect now, we get back to work.