I am no longer in Asheville. In fact, since I returned from Asheville a week and a half ago, I figured I should tell you about it.
I'll write a better post (with pictures! And other fun stuff!) later, but for now, here are the update-y things:
I have not finished my manuscript. I didn't expect for it to become so long, and I didn't expect to work so slow. A couple weeks ago, I had to contact poor Jo in a panic to work out a new deadline, which is now October 14. (One week away... *gulp*) I am now in Charlotte. The fall weather is nice. I see it through the windows when I type frantically at the library or in the dining room.
But I'm not actually in terrible shape. I do feel under the gun, because instead of just writing, I'm also preparing for a wedding next weekend and also another secret thing. In general, though, my mind is calmer than it was before I left Asheville.
This first draft has taken longer to write than any other draft I can remember, and for a while, I fretted over that. (I love the word fret, btw.) I mean, after all, completing the first draft of Of Giants and Ice didn't take too long. I worried that I was doing something wrong. I thought that by handling this one differently, I was messing it up. (Ooooh, I hope I didn't jinx myself by saying that. Considering that no one has seen it yet but me, I have no idea if I have messed it up or not.)
But one day, I had a very helpful thought:
You need to make the clay before you can shape it.
I don't know how I know this, or if maybe tons of people know it too, but many serious potters make their own clay. (This article has more information, although some people purchase powdered clay rather than just digging it up in their backyard.) You add water to the dry stuff; it looks like dirt soup for a while; and then after it sits for a while, it dries out enough for you to work with it.
But it's the same for a first draft. Here I was thinking that my first draft needed to look like the bowl that it would become - maybe not the prettiest bowl in the world, but you know, recognizable as a bowl. But I was skipping a step. I was asking too much from it. All that a first draft must do is exist. This draft is just the raw material that I can mold into a real novel. Before that happens, I first need enough of it - I need a beginning, a middle, and an end to work with.
And...well, maybe it's not like this for everyone, but for me, most times, it is more difficult to create something out of nothing than it is to shape something you already have.
I need to make the clay before I can shape it. That's the thought that is spurring me to the end of this draft.
Okay, people, I'm signing off. This is the last deep breath before I plunge into the end of the novel. Endings, I've noticed, tend to feel like a gallop to the finish line. But that's a post topic for another time. :-)