The novel I’ve been working on for a few months isn’t “done” in the sense that you could take up all these handwritten pages and read straight through it and get the whole narrative; plus I’m pretty sure that once all three notebooks are typed, and I’m slashing away with red ink over the next twenty days or so, there’ll be as much material added as excised. Maybe more.
For now, though, I’m gonna say that, as of this afternoon, I’m done with what Grady Hendrix calls “the vomit draft” of the new novel.
And I think I’m pleased with it.
There’s a longish chapter in the middle and a final scene that need to be drawn out from bullet points into prose, and I’ll have to read a couple books for research before I write them (the first being John Lee Anderson’s thousand-page biography of Che Guevara, of which I’ve already passed the first quarter, and then after that it’s The Survivor by John F. Harris–one of surprisingly few books about the Clinton administration).
So the book’s not “done”. No.
But it’s hard to write a book. And one of the courtesies anybody should accord themselves while embarking on the task is a celebration of checkpoints. Little goals along the road.
Also: Grady Hendrix calls it the “vomit draft,” David Foster Wallace called it the “zero draft”—the reason they’ve got slightly pejorative names for it, while simultaneously acknowledging the thing as a Completed Task, is because the hardest part of writing a book is just getting the fucking story down on paper, from beginning to end. The second draft is a totally different kind of labor–but it’s a lesser labor. Same could be said of all subsequent drafts.
The biggest challenge is simply conjuring your story out of the air and breathing on it.
And I’ve done that.
So yes. I’m gonna pat my own back and announce, here, that I’m officially done with a “complete” draft of what I’m both proud and remiss to refer to as my sixth (as yet) unpublished novel.
My hope over the next couple months is that I can hustle it through the next couple drafts and then start pitching it to agents. It’s not a fun process, but it’s exciting in its way. Much as I’m inclined to be cynical at this point, and tto argue that I’ve got no reason to be hopeful, the truth is that, as with each of my other novels that failed to snag an agent’s interest, I’m hopeful about this one.
It’s the weird magic of writing: each failure feels confined to its project. I realize in retrospect that those books I wrote over the past few yeaars might not’ve been worthy of publication, they were too messy or troublesome, but I don’t feel like a failure because of their failure. If that makes sense.
Their failures feel like their own.
So I’m in a good headspace about it and I’m prepared to do my very best in the editing process. What I haven’t determined is whether I’ll just self-publish the thing if it doesn’t get any traction with agents.
But we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
Until then: thanks for the support, everyone who’s reached out to say something encouraging or express interest, and I look forward to sharing it with you in some form or other.