Milestones and Monoliths

I passed another major milestone this weekend and, as milestones tend to do, it fell behind me in silence, unremarked by anyone except me and my publisher’s editorial staff… For an entire year, now, I have been working daily on writing, shaping and crafting another new novel, this one called “The Forest Laird”, and my entire life, everything I have done during that time, has revolved around the progress or lack of progress in that endeavour. But now it’s done. I sent it off to the publishers, all 230,000 words of it, on Thursday night. And so I thought I would mention the passing of the date here, simply to give it a modicum of significance.

I mentioned it to one of my neighbours , while we were having a glass of wine, and he asked me when the book would appear on the shelves. I told him it would late August or early September and he expressed surprise, since that is only about three months away and of course, he is right. But I’ve been submitting  the manuscript in chunks, as I went along, and so the editing process is well in hand, the book has been designed for months now and the production process is solidly under way.

Normally, and especially for relatively unknown writers, the production process, including the editorial stages of preparation, takes a full year from submission of a finished manuscript to the publication of a new book. That’s how it was with me when I began my career, back in 1990, and it’s the same for everyone. After producing more than a dozen books with the same publisher, however, (which is, incidentally, something that relatively few fiction writers do) a certain flexibility develops and a working relationship evolves. My publishers now know I can be depended upon to generate the material and that I am not going to let them down, and so the entire process has been telescoped into a smoothly-functioning interaction that generates more books in less time. It works well, but it involves a mutual trust that has been established over years of reciprocal respect and tolerance.

The point I wanted to write about when I started this post, though, is that the book is not quite complete, because I still have to write the epilogue and I’m still kicking it around in my head like a soccer ball because I’m not yet absolutely certain what I want to say, or how I want to round this story off. That is unusual, even for me, because there have been times when I’ve begun to write the epilogue to a story before I’ve even climbed aboard the book itself. This time, though, it’s different . . . a whole ‘nuther ball game, as a friend of mine would say. This time, I could not even start to think about the epilogue before I finished the story because I literally did not know how the story was going to end… I finished it, then re-read what I had written and decided it was not what I wanted; not satisfying, and not right. So I did it again. Rewrote the entire final chapter and went through the same process. And then I did it again, four more times, so that by the time I did finally get it right, I felt like Robin Williams doing his standup riff on Golf… So now I know the ending . . . the right ending . . . and it’s done. Now I can write the epilogue. And that is exactly what I am going to do, as soon as I have finished this…