Twenty percent

I suppose we could consider it some kind of minor trauma, which I have then triggered by returning to writing fiction after a decade-long hiatus. A novel — entirely fictional — has naturally stirred painful memories inside me, and now they are all coming out of me like a puss-filled boil.

This novel has origins in one I obliterated twenty years ago. The plot is distinct from that one, but it clearly contains enough inspiration to send me completely awry. I suppose that is why I have been telling myself recently that I can never publish it, despite the significant investment I have made.

It pains me to admit this, but I think I must face up to the truth. If I were to publish it, would it not just mean a lifetime of these unresolved traumas, which still afflict me, even a quarter of a century on? Do I really need to do this to myself for the sake of the momentary sense of achievement that may come with seeing my words in print?

I should have acknowledged this reality months ago, when I was pondering sending my manuscript to editors. I should have listened to my extreme agitation, which petitioned me to abandon the novel once and for all. Instead, I commissioned an editor to review it, parting with a mountain of cash. And there it becomes complicated, for her review begins this way:

I love so much about this story! The writing is gorgeous, and all of the twists and turns keep me engaged all the way to the end. It’s complex and impactful in its message. The characters are multidimensional and seek out universal truths most readers will easily relate to…

In her estimation, the book is 80% ready. In my own: well, I have a love-hate relationship with this novel. Some of the time I think I have produced something worthy; the rest of the time, it just grates with me. At times I feel like making the push for the final 20%. The remainder of the time I think that I can’t bear the prospect of this dragging on. I just want to be done with it completely.

No, really I just want a time machine, to go back to the beginning to tell myself not to start in the first place. If I had known I would still be carrying these traumas three decades on, maybe I would have done something sensible like talking to somebody about it.

Perhaps I made up all of those fictional characters to substitute for the apologies I once thought I deserved. Perhaps it was my way of having conversations that were impossible to have in real life. To invent characters wise to the impact of their actions, capable of self-improvement and reform. And here, as I write this, perhaps I remember what I have written and why.

Perhaps here I will find motivation to polish the last twenty percent, hoping that from trauma something great may come into being, and I find myself finally free.

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