Critique Group meets tomorrow, which means I've spent much of today immersed in J's and A's worlds. Doing so never feels like work. I'm sold on their characters and stories, always eager for another installment. And added bonus: their worlds are much warmer than the sub-zero temps we've been experiencing here in the Midwest.
I'm also eager to hear what J and A thought of my sub. It's still a bit rough around the edges. (The dialogue needs tweaking, and the language needs a few more hours of spit and polish.) But, plot and character wise the scene feels as if its nearly finished.
There's no logical explanation for how I come to this space where a paragraph, scene, chapter--or even the entire draft--feels as if it's achieved "doneness." There's no pattern. No magic formula. I might spend three days on a section or three hours. At the end of my writing day, I either know that piece of writing is finished or not. This has been the case with every draft of KM that I've written. I have an inkling of where I might be headed, but I don't know I've arrived until I reach it.
The process is unnerving and very much a leap of faith, especially when reaching "the end" doesn't necessarily mean my work's editor ready. It only means it's reader ready--for someone I trust to critique the piece for key story elements. Theme and language. Character and plot. Setting and logic.
One key comment can upset the balance. Not in a bad way, but in a way that might cause me to rethink the entire shape of my story quilt, and the threads I've used to stitch it together. The reality is: making the decision to rework that thread, add or subtract a character, or re-vision the entire story from another POV very often means delaying a sub to an editor by months or years depending on your process.
For those new to the business, I imagine this revelation is less than encouraging. For anyone truly serious about his or her craft, this part of the process is a necessary evil. Many days go by when I long to declare my story editor ready. Rather than rail at the Powers That Be about working on yet another re-vision to KM, I try to remind myself of how much I've discovered each time I've gone back to the beginning...my world's name, the many aspects its rich history, my main character's true mission, my antagonist's need to tell his story. So on and so on.
This said, my most current rewrite feels the closest yet to being editor ready. Will I feel this way after I reach this end of this draft? My toes and fingers are crossed, but this is no guarantee. If another supporting character demands the spotlight (and makes a compelling case for why I should allow him or her to share center stage), I'm prepared to stick with him or her for the long haul.
After all, my characters are the ones driving the story. I'm just along for the ride, recording their journeys there and back again to the best of my ability.