Karen Rivers


Karen Rivers

On Tuesday night at 2 a.m., I finished my thirteenth novel.   Which is actually a lie.  I am starting this post with a lie!  You should not trust me.  I write fiction, after all.

I should say, "On Tuesday night at 2 a.m., I finished my seventeenth novel."   Which might also be a lie.    I don't actually know how many unpublished novels I have.   Several, at least.

THIS novel, number 13, may also be an unpublished novel, although it is a novel attached to a contract, the publisher always has an "out" clause and being a writer (read: "massively insecure human"), I'm always SURE that this time -- although I've never heard of it happening -- the publisher will say, "Actually... on second thought?  No.  We're out."   

(Dear Fate:  The above paragraph was in no way designed to tempt you.  Love, Karen).

When I'm writing a book, I have to push myself past the point where I'm just dallying on the internet and posting on the twitter* and buying the boots on the eBay.   I have to really really really make myself stop just re-writing and re-writing and re-writing the first page.   I have to physically crank my attention away from EVERYTHING ELSE IN THE ENTIRE WORLD and bludgeon myself half to death (yes, that's a metaphor) in order to make my mind focus on what I know I want to write.   On this thing that is waiting to be written.   This story that I've been ruminating on and nurturing for months while I pick up kids and ferry them around and love on them and scrub my floors** and read other people's books and carefully pluck any and all stray (and alarming) hairs from my upper lip.   This book that is forming in spite of my best efforts to look the other way.

I imagine it's probably a bit like pretending to yourself that you aren't pregnant when you are.   

And then, suddenly, usually under pain of death (or deadline), I see the entire book from start to finish in my head, and all I have left to do is type it.    And it really does feel that way, like I'm just the vehicle.   I also felt that way when I gave birth to The Birdy.   Everyone around me was shouting, "PUSH PUSH PUSH" so I made this face that implied I was pushing but really I was thinking, "ARE YOU KIDDING, PEOPLE?  THAT HURTS!  I AM JUST GOING TO LIE HERE AND PRETEND TO PUSH!"  

And I did.

And she was born in spite of that.   As it turns out, the body expels the baby.

And the mind expels the story.

Is that entirely crazy?  (That's rhetorical!  Do not answer!)  Do YOU feel that way when you are writing?

I'm not sure why I'm posting this, maybe because I'm more than 50% crazy after a month of extremely late nights of writing to make this happen, or maybe because I've been feeling insecure lately about process and about how other peoples' processes are likely superior to my every-book-makes-me-feel-like-I've-never-written-one-before-and-what-on-earth-am-I-doing? technique.

But you know, I never had a "birth plan" either.

I meant this to be a post about how the days after the day when you finish a draft of a novel are such amazingly light days, drizzled with sparkly dew and general euphoria.    But then I got distracted.   And besides, the day after I finished the draft, I spent the afternoon in ER with The Birdy after she dropped a 5000 pound glass display shelf on her poor little wee Birdy hand after I explicitly said, "Don't play with that glass shelf or you'll drop it on your hand!"    So the euphoria was slightly dampened.   And not by sparkly dew, either. 


* I just wanted to say "the twitter" because it amuses me.

** OK, fine, no I do not scrub my floors regularly.   But I ought to, and I think about that a lot, which is the same sort of thing as doing it.