I did it. I completed the first draft of The Collection last Friday with half an hour to spare. What’s more, I’m very satisfied with what I’ve got and today have started polishing from the top. I will be finished the “first rewrite” by this Friday, and beyond finding a way to cut 15-20 of its 140 pages, it should be fairly easy going. As I’ve said before, I’ve been working on this story for the better part of three years and taken it through several different inceptions. To do anything radical at this stage would convince me that I have no intention whatsoever of ever establishing a writing career. No, it’s time to push the birdy out of the nest – by now, it should be able to build it’s own damn nest on the way down.
I’m currently reading Icon, a comprehensive look at the work of Frank Frazetta. It’s helped a lot as I tend to approach my stories much like a painter approaches a painting: holistically, and with a specific palette suited to my vision. In a number of cases, Frazetta was forced by an editor to complete a painting by a specific date, only to go back to it once it was published to rework it more to his liking. That taught me a lot about how I should approach my writing. In every case, when I’ve finished a story it is done. Finito. I have no more use for it and nothing left to say. But that’s because I’ve taken all the time I’ve needed to get to that point. In a sense it’s an exorcism, and when Pizuzu has left town for other lodgings, he’s well and truly gone. I have some very clear purposes behind everything I write, and even though it may take me a while to satisfy them, once I have I feel relieved. Right now is one of those times. There is still some work to do, but more akin to rearranging the furniture than designing the entire room.
That’s not to say I don’t look forward to a day where I am under pressure to produce, and forced into turning over something that may satisfy the whims and purposes of another, or perhaps a team of others. Sometime that’s easier, because the parameters have been set and you can simply play with the limits of what’s available. When the limits are set by the writer, a project can often become unwieldy and lose focus. This story had those stages in its development, but seeing as it was only my inner harsh critic that it had to please, it was perfectly fine if it lay in pages of notes and various drafts humming with potential. However, today, I am happy to report, for all intents and purposes, The Collection exists as a complete draft. Sweet.
But I have learned a valuable lesson. Deadlines must die. They cannot rise again to eat away at your brain, causing you to lock yourself away in a boarded up basement forever. If I may offer a bit of advice, set them and keep to them. Doing so will force you to batten down your plot points and cinch up you characters, distilling a sea of literary opportunity into a wave of essential, narrative power. It will also force you to move forward when it is easier to drift sideways and be thrown off course. Fight until that hour of death is upon you and then take your draft and put a bullet in its brain. Once you’re through, start another, set a new one and do the same.
It’s been said that creative projects are never finished, only abandoned, and I agree to a point. But I still believe there is an essence that can be achieved that says to me that a project has fully matured. In terms of The Collection, I think I’m there. Now…