Leaving The Excruciating Middle

I have indeed (as I predicted/mourned here) rewritten most of the second half of this novel, which has been excruciating, but the key words are "HAVE rewritten." Have written!

I have managed to hitch the mostly-new middle to the existing ending as well. Now to rewrite the ending.

In the past week of seclusion I have written thousands of words, six brand-new chapters and two revised/reworked chapters, along with the myriad of small duties -- looking up stuff, going back to weave something in and through the narrative, deleting such-and-so, finding little a-ha moments and implanting them, making notes by my side that help me remember to go back and do this-not-that when I take a break from forward motion, and lots of other small tasks.

I have been in that trench I wrote so seriously about here, and laughed about here, but it is good... somehow it is fine. My focus has been good, I have taken breaks and have been able to get back to work -- I am in the groove, so to speak, and it feels marvelous to be writing ahead, living a writing life, and heading for my goal.

I was stuck early in the week -- I had to stare at chapter 17 for three long days (as I wrote about here) before I could go forward with it. I wanted to tear my hair out... but nothing was happening, I couldn't figure it out. And then, finally, finally, I coaxed something wonderful -- it made perfect sense! -- to the surface and forged ahead. It's been like that a lot, actually. Excruciating. This fashioning-something-out-of-nothing always amazes me... creation is a mystical thing, isn't it? And here's the thing: It cannot be rushed. It can't. I can suit up and show up, and try. Try. That's the agreement I make with myself.

You'll notice I tacked a few extra days onto my finish line. Yeah. But hey. The original goal was Halloween. Then it was Nov. 4, election day. Then... Nov. 8, as I leave for fall travels on November 8. I can have something resembling a new draft by then. And, and I will have had a life as well, along the way. And I will not have killed myself trying to meet a deadline that felt too tight to accommodate my process... and yet, I have been disciplined, I have not been a slacker, so to miss by a week feels marvelous, too.

That's part of taking care of myself -- to allow myself to work hard and yet not expire, and to do my part in the overall process that brings a book to life.

Most of this week is for finishing -- I will hunker in. I meet with my editor by phone on Wednesday afternoon. I get my hair cut and put back into shape after months of letting it fly every-which-way while I stay focused. And I fly into the sunrise on Saturday morning, to attend a friend's wedding (mazel tov, Nancy!), and for a welcome round of schools and conferences in November. The book will be of-a-piece by then (one can only hope) and on my editor's desk.

We had a lovely birthday gathering for a friend here on Saturday night after dinner at a new Thai restaurant in the neighborhood -- don't you love the surprise birthday dessert they brought to the table? We took the candle home with us and put it on the chocolate cake.

I was sequestered most of last week, including all day yesterday, went to dinner last night with Jim, then to a bookstore just to browse. It felt so normal... and so unusual, like looking up and seeing that the larger world goes on without you.

I now have 21 chapters that feel solid and I probably have another ten to go. We'll see. The ground shifts beneath my feet, from time to time, as I hitch the middle to the end and take into account the new characters who appeared during this revision, as well as the shift in emphasis with some of Franny's relationships. This will naturally affect the pages to come, although I still expect the end to be the same... don't know how that happens, and I may be surprised.

I have five days to finish.

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