Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The End

Yesterday's wacky "get my life in order" housekeeping task: I put on my gloves and inventoried my freezer. I had no idea what was in there, and I discovered that there are a lot of things I've been buying repeatedly, in spite of having a good supply in the freezer, simply because I didn't know what was in my freezer. I bought a new refrigerator a year or so ago, so there wasn't anything truly weird and surprising, but I did learn that I won't need to buy corn tortillas, round steak, ground beef or chicken breasts for a while. I always forget I have corn tortillas when I'm planning to make enchiladas, and I have a habit of stocking up on meats when they go on sale, without knowing how much I have in my freezer.

Yesterday's galloping gourmet adventure: I made focaccia bread. The last time I made this recipe, I thought it tasted a little bland. This time, I took several steps to avoid that. I made an infused olive oil with garlic and fresh rosemary, then used part of that as the oil in the dough itself and used the rest as the oil to pour over the top. I used fresh rosemary as the herb topping, plus a sprinkling of kosher salt to bring out the flavor (I may have used a little too much salt, but you can brush that off easily just by giving the bread a good shake). It was sooo good, and I'm planning to make a good stew to have with it.

Now that I've had a few days to recover, I've realized that I have a love/hate relationship with reaching "the end." On the one hand, it feels so good to be done. On the other, there's a little sadness, some letting go. The story is done and out of my head, so there's nothing new left to discover. Even if I keep revising, the story is pretty much done. I'm left a little wistful and melancholy. That melancholy often means that the list of things I want to do when I'm done with my book doesn't actually get done. The whole time I'm on that home stretch, I can't wait to be done, and I keep telling myself all the things I'll do when I'm done. And then when I am done, I no longer really want to do all those things because I'd rather be writing again. It's maddening.

I think there's also a different sense from finishing a first draft to finishing revisions. Finishing the first draft is a huge rush, I guess because it's like reading a book for the first time, seeing it all unfold. I really do tend to happy dance and get out and do things after that phase. Writing a first draft is hard, but it's also like play. It's all about spinning the story. Even though it's sort of an end, it's really more the end of a phase, and I know the story will get even better. Revision, on the other hand, is work. Sometimes it's harder to mold what has been written into something better than it is to just write it from scratch. But even writing from scratch during the revision process isn't easy, because that usually requires cutting something that's already been written. Oddly enough, I don't so much mourn the parts that are cut outright. I just shift those into my "cuts" file and go on. I think I convince myself that I may be able to use that deleted scene elsewhere in the book, or if all else fails, on my web site. But when I have to replace an already written scene with a new scene, or else substantially rewrite an existing scene, then it's hard. I know that whatever I cut at that point is just cut. It has to exist in an alternate universe. There's all that work that went into the original scene (and often, I can remember exactly what was going on as I wrote that original scene), and it was wasted effort. Even if I know the new scene will be better, it's kind of sad. Therefore, at the end of all that, my reaction is usually more a sense of tired relief than elation. I know that this is pretty much it for the story. It may get tweaked a little more, but I don't want to do much more work on it. My head is already moving on to the next project.

Meanwhile, there's all the other insanity going on right now, with a workshop next weekend that I have to research and prepare, the upcoming trip to New York, marketing work to do on the next book, and a whole bunch of little, nagging business things I have to take care of before I hit my Crazy Three Weeks of Fall.

Tomorrow may be my "yay! the book is done!" day that I more or less take off, since I have the first round of to-do list things ticked off. The weather forecast is for a "blustery" day (makes me think of Winnie the Pooh), and that sounds like a great day to spend baking, drinking tea and reading.

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