After about five months of research and writing, the first draft of The Witch’s Tombstone has been completed. It came in at about 72,000 words, longer than I expected. Whew. Hallelujah.
The writing process never ceases to amaze me. You’d think that after nineteen novels, it would become easier.
It certainly didn’t feel that way with this supernatural thriller. Some days the prose seemed wooden, the dialogue contrived and even a little stilted. Other days I became so immersed in the story and characters, I forgot about my daily word quota—normally 1,500 to 2,000 words. Lost in a dramatic and mysterious world of my imagination, I forgot to eat, forgot to shower, and even forgot to turn the phone on or check social media.
But it certainly wasn’t like that in the early stages. Every writer is different, I suppose. Without doubt, some start a work in progress confidently high on their past accolades, positive reviews and books sales.
But not this scribbling scribe.
To be sure, my books have at times garnered decent sales. And about eighty-five per cent of the reviews are five out of five stars. Perhaps most importantly, when I finish one I won’t release it to the viewing public unless I’m really pleased with it. Unless, regardless of what some naysayers might say, I know it’s a good book.
But that doesn’t seem to stop the self-doubt when I start a new novel. I sometimes ask myself, “Can I still do this? Maybe I’ve used up all my creative juices. Maybe there’s nothing left in the tank. Is this story even going anywhere?”
That usually lasts for about the first 20,000 words or so. After that, as I did with The Witch’s Tombstone, I usually find a groove and the process becomes a little easier and a lot more satisfying. I loosen up and the creativity starts to flow.
Sometimes the satisfaction is difficult to put into words. Indescribable. It’s a kind of magic really when you can take one little idea and spin it into a complicated story with three-dimensional characters, unexpected plot twists and—at least in my case—a heaping helping of macabre, gritty and horrific elements.
To discover that your art contains sub-texts, themes, unexpected layers, and operates on levels that you hadn’t even intentionally constructed, is a small miracle. Finishing up the last chapter of The Witch’s Tombstone, it dawned on me that in many ways the tale is about art mirroring life and life mirroring art. I started to recognize symbolism that I hadn’t consciously intended.
I asked myself, “Did my subconscious intend this? Was it a gift to my conscious?” Whatever it was, it was an incredible moment of elation and gratification, knowing that there were parts of my brain working on the novel while I was doing something else.
In a word, magic.
Writing the last two thousand or so words, I started to wonder if I would have the same emotional response as I had with most of my other titles. Would I get a little teary-eyed knowing my time with my characters, many of whom I’d grown to love, was coming to an end? I hadn’t felt it up to that point so I had my doubts.
You see, this visceral emotional response tells me it’s a decent story. It’s a captivating story. It’s, to borrow words from some of my reviewers, “a real page-turner.”
And then, during a particularly sad and heartbreaking scene, it happened. I felt my eyes well with tears. I felt a little sad. A little elated. Bittersweet. I had to leave the office and take a break before I could return to my keyboard. But when I did, I knew. This story isn’t bad. Not bad at all. Compelling even. People will enjoy this.
I guess that’s why I do it. I was born with a gift. Wouldn’t it be a tragedy to turn a blind eye to our God-given talents? I write because I was born to write. I write because, even with all the agony, despair, and self-doubt, I love it.
I’ve always encouraged my friends and family to pursue their dreams and develop their talents. If we have no passion in our lives, we don’t have much.
So, yes, I’m thrilled that one part of the process has ended and another one is beginning. Editing and rewrites. I’ve started doing some rewrites now—mainly polishing up the last two chapters and the epilogue. I’ve taken many notes and now must systematically go through the manuscript and repair plot holes, fill in backstory, correct technical inaccuracies, dialogue; and obviously punctuation, grammar, spelling and syntax. I do three editing passes of my own and then it’s off to my editor for a professional polish and some honest feedback about the book’s potential.
Maybe I was wrong. But, I doubt it.
Look for The Witch’s Tombstone in bookstores soon. Here’s a short synopsis to whet your appetite.
A troubled young woman cursed with shadowy supernatural powers believes she’s the descendant of an evil witch who was burned at the stake in the 1700s for her heinous crimes.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my rant.