By Mark Alpert
It was a terrible week in the news — the bombs in Boston, the explosion in Texas, the failure of the background-check bill — so it was a great relief to plunge into fiction. And fiction-wise, it was a wonderful week for me, because I completed the first draft of my next novel. My daily word count always rises to extraordinary (at least for me) levels when I’m nearing the end, partly because I get caught up in the climax of the book and partly because I just want to finish the darn thing. I love writing 2,000 words a day, but it also makes me feel bad about how little I write at other times. I say to myself, “Why can’t you write this much all the time? Then you could knock off a novel in two months and spend the rest of the year on your tennis game.”
But it didn’t. At this point I have no idea whether the book is any good, but at least it hangs together. Now I have to wait to hear from my editor. He already read the beginning of the book, and he liked it, but I don’t know how he’ll feel about the end. I’m not even sure how I feel about it. I’m too close to the thing. But I’m cautiously optimistic. The reason for my optimism: bullet ants. The ending has a scene featuring bullet ants. You see, I just broke my rule about never revealing details of a novel-in-progress, but I couldn’t help it. Bullet ants are fascinating creatures.
Hey, congrats, Mark. That is always such a good feeling. I like that idea of the reward at the end. I counsel new writers to create one of those as an inducement to doing one of the most important things of all: finishing that draft. Your own reward is unique and impressive. I don’t think I could play tennis on my bike.
And I resonate with those “doubts” about whether the draft is “any good.” I hear this a lot with experienced writers, and I think what’s going on is that the more we write, the more we know, and the more we know the higher we set our standards.
Congrats, Mark. It’s always a fulfilling emotion to make it through the first-draft journey. I think every writer wonders if the work is any good, I know I do. I agree with Jim, the more you know, the more you question. You’re now in the part of the writing process I love: rewriting. Enjoy!
It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who wonders if it’s “any good.”
I’m close to the end of my first draft, and my reward is a three-day getaway with hubby where he goes to a work-related class all day and I sit in the hotel room plotting my next novel. The kids will be with Grandpa for those three days. That’s an incentive with a due date attached.
Can’t wait to read your book when it comes out. Now I’m interested in bullet ants.
Re: Why the writing goes fast toward the end:
I heard Mike Connelly explain this once as the first part of a book being like pushing a heavy boulder up a huge hill. But once you crest and start downhill it’s all you can do to keep up with the damn thing!
I would agree that there’s a great degree of satisfaction with finishing that first draft, even if you know there’s a lot of work yet to be done. Good for you. : )
High fives on finishing the draft. Yes, it’s been an anquish-ridden week. So I really needed to hear a writing-related victory. Thanks and chin up 🙂
Nice job! Can’t wait until I get to that point myself with my first novel.
I’m especially keen to learn more about your bullet ants…