This morning, at 7:43, after two hours of writing, I finished the first revised draft of my manuscript (And the Blackbirds Mock). It is 149 pages long–41,368 words–and divided into 17 chapters. I started this draft in December, and it took me until now to finish it, which seems like a really short amount of time in which to finish a manuscript, but I recently read an interview with children’s and young adult author Gary Paulsen (he wrote Hatchet, one of my favorite childhood books) that made me feel better. Paulsen says that he spends two to three years thinking about a project, outlining it in his head, and deciding what the plot is and who the characters are…and then, after all that time, he sits down and writes the entire manuscript in two months. According to him, typing the words you’ve had stewing in your brain is the easy part.
I’m no Gary Paulsen, but I did spent a long time thinking about this story, making an outline, and plotting it. As I mentioned in an earlier post, this manuscript is technically a second, drastically revised draft of the original manuscript, which was called And the Sea-Gulls Cry. Yes, I know. The title is practically the same, only with a different bird. But And the Sea-Gulls Cry was so wretched that I couldn’t bear to waste ink and paper on printing it. And the Blackbirds Mock satisfies me so much more that this morning, after making sure all the chapter headings were aligned at the tops of the pages, I printed the entire manuscript, all 149 pages, and put them in the binder that’s been roosting on my desk for a couple weeks just waiting to get that story tucked between its kraft-paper covers.
I know I’m going to make changes to the manuscript as my first readers finish reading it and I continue to edit it, but I was so happy this morning after typing the last word that I wanted to print it right then. But my husband was still asleep, and the printer is in our bedroom on his dresser because we live in a shack-sized piece of history from the early 1900s, so I had to wait. I had Insanity to do, anyway, and thankfully today was the Cardio Recovery day, which meant I could listen to music as I did Shaun T.’s murderous leg exercises. I delved into my half-Cuban blood and chose the most celebratory music I know: Arturo Sandoval’s Danzón album. My favorite of these songs, I discovered today as I danced in between squats and plank work, are “A Mis Abuelos” and “Suavito” (just in case you wanted to check them out 😉 ).
The kind of joy I felt then, and feel now, is not that thank God, I’m done with that thing forever kind of glee I get after finishing a research paper I never wanted to write or a presentation I didn’t want to present. It’s a more triumphantly terrifying feeling, because I know it’s done in one way but not in others, good but not the best it can be. And besides, I will miss getting up to write it every morning. Now I have to get up early and write those research papers I mentioned while I play the classic ‘let-it-sit’ game with And the Blackbirds Mock, which means I will not read it or think about it for a week (because that’s all the time I can afford for that–usually I wait longer!). After that week, I’ll hold that solid binder in my hands, pretend what I’ve written is a real book, and read the story with fresh, critical eyes.