Friday, August 30, 2013

A Mandala Novel

This Monday, at 1am, I finished writing my first novel.

Of course, that's not the first time I've "finished" writing a "novel". I have two under my belt. The first one went through four drafts with a free-lance editor before I gave up and realized it just wasn't going to work; the second was a trilogy in disguise, and I abandoned it when I met Will Lesterall and the world of The Pact.

So here I am, with the sequel to The Pact finished—my first novel that worked. How do I know this one isn't another flop? That's a good question.

I can think of one artistic equivalent: the completion of the manadala called the Godflower. I spent five years on it. Like a novel, I knew it needed slight adjustments and changes to get it just right. When this was finished, I looked at it and knew I had it nailed. Then, I went over the whole thing, at 600% magnification, checking each square millimeter to make sure every curve was smooth.

As an artist, it is rewarding to discover that your work is finished. For me, that's a feeling I can't forget. And when I got to the last paragraph at 1am this Monday, I felt that familiar shiver that spread through my whole body.

Now it's time to go over my novel at 600% magnification and make sure every line of text has the tension it needs. I have an 18-page checklist, 5 beta readers who have agreed to be quick (I'll bribe them with free food if the need arises), and eagerness to take this novel to its final form.

How about you? What tells you when your novel is finished? By that, of course, I don't necessarily mean ready to submit—rather, how can you tell your story doesn't need to be rewritten in another draft? That you've taken it where it needs to go?

I'd love to hear from you!

Graeme Brown is a Winnipeg artist, fantasy author, and junior editor for Champagne Books. His first story, The Pact is now available. He is a frequent blogger and a tweeter, and a third year math student.


cc kaufman said...

A great question. I think ,if left to our own devices we would tinker and edit and cut until nothing remained.I try to remember what my original concept of the story was and be true to that.Of course sometimes a better story takes life as you write...the characters take over...ha,ha, see what I mean!

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

My novels aren't finished until the publisher puts me out of my misery.

Love your Godflower, wonderful colors, design, proportion. My art teachers would have been proud to have you instead of me.

Allison Knight said...

I'm a plotter. I work from an outline, sometimes a skimpy one, but an outline. So I have the dark moment and the final scene in mind as I work. But, I'll accept Julie's answer. My book isn't finished until the publisher says, we'll take it, even if the editor wants to tinker with the end, which happened with my very first book. She wanted to change the end but I didn't, and it made it to best seller list anyway.

Browng34 said...

Thanks, Julie, for the compliments on The Godflower.

You both bring up a good point about what the word, "finished" means. Like you, Allison, I am a plotter and I follow an outline, which perhaps it why when I reached the end and saw that everything worked out, that was because I saw it all come together as a result of sticking to the plan.

It's indeed right that the publisher may request changes, but as far as I see it those are fine-tunings that don't make your book any more "finished", but rather, get it more in synch with how it must be presented for it to thrive in the market.

For me, finished means I've done what I set out to do, and knowing I've achieved that means, when I hear from betas, editors, etc., that it's not on account of anything I've knowingly skimped on, but the inevitable short-sight that accompanies the solitary act of creation.

Thanks for sharing!

Nikki said...

Lovely mandala, Graeme. Nice color choices.

I consider a book finished when there are no more loose ends. It will still need polishing and tweaking, but I have no more questions to ask it.

Characters take on a life of their own, of course, and I may need to write another book for them, with new questions and answers and loose ends. But that's another story...

Destiny Blaine said...

The Godflower is incredible, Graeme. You’re truly gifted.

Great question, by the way. For me, reaching a satisfying conclusion depends on the manuscript.

Recently, I wrote a western and more or less stumbled upon the ending. First intended as a novel, the story more or less came to a close because there wasn't anything left to show or tell. Anything I tried to force or add didn’t strengthen the manuscript.
In this particular case, I ended up staring at the monitor, throwing a mental temper tantrum, and then finally coming to the realization that whatever else I added to the novella could potentially ruin the manuscript, which further suggested the story had reached its end.

One of the pseudonyms I use writes romantic thrillers. If I'm writing in that particular genre and push away from my desk feeling totally exhausted, then the story is where it needs to be. If I’m not emotionally drained at the end, then I didn’t do my job.

Great topic!
Destiny Blaine

Anonymous said...

Beautiful mandala, Graeme. As for a novel, one wise writer said that a book is never finished, just abandoned. So it's up to the writer when he decides that enough is enough. Everyone has his own standards and checklists. Personally, I just read the text again and again. When I don't feel the urge anymore to fix a sentence or switch the paragraphs or change some words, or delete a chapter then it's done. It usually takes at least 3 major revisions and some tweaking afterwards, but everyone works differently.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Nikki, Destiny, and Olga for the great comments and more compliments on the Godflower. Olga, I like that quote you added in - I suppose that writer was paraphrasing Da Vinci, who said, "Art is never finished, it is abandoned" - definitely true for writing!

What I find really interesting from your comments so far is how the word "finished" means different things, depending on how you look at it - be that good things, bad things, or marks of progress.


Unknown said...

Your mandela is wonderful.

I plot so I haven't had trouble knowing when the novel is finished.

I wish I was better at rewriting. Too many years of journalism have left me with a notion that one draft is all it takes.That has meant I have one book being published in October (Timeout) and two that need rewriting. Sigh.


Liz Fountain said...

Love the Godflower, it's beautiful.

You mean novels can actually be finished? :-D My experience is like the quote Olga shared - I can't say they're "done," only that I've decided I can't contribute any more to make them complete, at least for now.


Unknown said...

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