The Fifth Man, A Novel. 100,000 words exactly (counting chapter headings). 366 pages. Edited through six drafts. Winnowed down from 500 pages of meandering dreck. Amped up with multiple layers of action and complexity.
I wrote “The End…for now” yesterday at five o’clock and emailed it to my mentor, Sam, in time for him to download it to his computer before taking a limo to the airport and his flight to the London Book Fair. I’d actually finished it on Friday afternoon and spent most of the weekend compulsively pruning and searching for repeated words.
After all of the years and angst I’ve expended on the book, I’d expected to be doing the Happy Dance around the kitchen as sOon as I lifted my finger from the keyboard, but I wasn’t. Seriously, there have been many sleepless nights. I’ve walked into street lamps as I agonized about what challenges to through in Kenora’s path to show her growing smarter, faster, stronger against her adversaries. What kind of hot love scenes could I visualize for her with her boss Jake? [I confess, those were the easiest bits to write. I think I’ll turn my hand to erotica next, just for a change of pace.]
I felt nothing more exultant than I do any time I send an ordinary email. I mentioned this to Barry Dempster, the man who first set me on the novel writing path years ago when he was Writer in Residence at Richmond Hill Public Library. I’d fearfully handed over my forty pages of writing for his review. I got all gussied up for our interview. Shaking in my boots, I sat opposite Barry in a gloomy little interview room and slowly deflated as he told me that the writing was good, but that I basically had ten short stories that involved the same person with no central story arc, no plot, no tension.
Being a bugger for punishment, I wasn’t disappointed but motivated. So I started another book of short stories to prove that I could still do it. I entered contests and began blogging. The Fifth Man edged along slowly but I knew something was missing, no matter how many courses I signed up for. Working with Sam has altered my writing, so much so that the cringe-worthy first 500 page draft has shrunk and become more readable and marketable. Even if Sam chooses not to represent me as an agent, I still have a product that I won’t be ashamed of self publishing. So that’s a plus.
Barry said he’s experienced the same ennui on finishing a big project. That didn’t make me feel better, but it sure did relieve some of the pressure. Barry’s a pro, so his advice is golden.
I wanna dance! Guess I’ll just have to wait for the joy.