July 22, 2010 Finishing the first draft

I’ve found, through trial and terror, that by the time I’m on the last few chapters of a first draft a weird thing happens. At some point I start to hate everyone and everything in the book. Even the main character. Does this happen to other authors? I don’t know. I also enter a kind of suspended state where I seem to be intent on self sabotage and write less than a three fingered monkey. 

Why does this happen? I wish I knew. But it does. In the hours when I am not working – ie the middle of the night, often around 3.30am – I find myself weaving elaborate fantasies that tomorrow (in a few hours) everything will be different. I will magically love my characters and world again and be unable to wait to finish it. I will gallop to the end of the book like a mouse spotting aged gouda. My fingers will fly over the keyboard, I will write prose that although not magical is at least choherant and I will, at last, finish it. 

Of course this is three in the morning and everyone knows our brains are not fully engaged at this hour. We are mutant versions of ourselves with delusions standing – mostly of the paranoid kind. So when the next morning comes I am once again at my desk staring at the computer screen with a mixture of despair, frustration and self disgust that would keep many a therapist in pens and self help books. Instead of writing I phone a friend, clean the cupboard no one uses, do the dishes, spend hours on Twitter, or even perhaps blog. Like this. And all the while I can feel the unfinished book breathing behind me like a toddler with a head cold. 

I hate that toddler. And yet when I am not at my desk that toddler is all I think about. I even dream about it, seeing the final scenes like polished shots of film in my head. I can only hope that one day soon – hopefully tomorrow – I will actually get it done.