Completing a Novel

It’s the end of an era for me, and I’m not talking about living aboard; that change is sometime in the future. What I’m referring to is the near-completion of my latest novel.

It’s been a hell of a long haul. I’m trying to remember when I started this thing but it’s hard to think back that far. I think I started the research in 2005 or 2006. It took me two years to get all the info together, mostly because the locale and period I chose was very poorly represented in literature.

The setting is Rupert’s Land 1815-1816, and aside from Hudson’s Bay Company documents, there are very little first-hand accounts of the peoples and the region, of the kind needed to accurately recreate the period. Of course the local fur traders were all illiterate, so I had to rely on the few published journals written by adventuring gentlemen.
I wanted it to be very accurate, especially when describing First Nations culture. That part was especially was difficult, for the first Swampy Cree dictionaries didn’t appear until a hundred years after the period of my novel, and Early European opinions of Native peoples were deeply biased and racist.

Of course I haven’t written full time during that period. There have been long periods when I’ve put it down and carried on with my life. Writing is important, but it’s not the only thing I am passionate about and I’ve buggered off sailing and traveling for months at a time. And when you leave it for a long time, it’s that much harder getting back into the groove.

But I am so deathly sick of this book. I’ve rewritten it and polished it so many times I can see it in my sleep. Long gone is any excitement or novelty. It is old and hoary and I just want to be done with it.

But it’s been a very good process. I’ve learned a tremendous amount about writing fiction, and so the next book should require fewer rewrites. I’ve now completed 4 novels, and that accounts for a hell of a lot of writing. I’ve only published mag articles and one short story, but I know this book is publishable.

This wrapping up part of the process is a funny thing. The last bit of
work is particularly dull and the thrill of finally typing THE END is
muted by the knowledge that I am capping so many years of work. It’s a
glorious time and a sad time as well. You create, but then you must let
go.

The hardest part is still ahead: the interminable process of looking for an agent or publisher. Rejection slips don’t bother me at all, it’s just that the process is so god-damn inefficient and clumsy. I am toying with the idea of self publishing, only because mainstream publishing has so little to offer the emergent author these days. It’s arguable that you could sell as many or more books yourself as could be sold by a publishing house obsessed with pushing predictable and well-known authors.

At the same time, I’m not concerned about the money as much as readership. I’ve had tens of thousands of people read my work on this blog as well as in all my magazine articles, so I already have an audience, but I believe that the book itself is important, as a work of art. I write to share ideas and perceptions, and to reflect the world to itself. I write to explore and illuminate, not to entertain, although I sure hope the result is entertaining.

I also want to create and share beauty. Maybe that’s the most important part.

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