This evening, I finished a grueling round of revisions on my historical that has taken me over a year (in fits and starts). The holes are filled, the characters deepened, and I understand my story better.
I'm looking forward to taking a break from this for a couple of weeks, concentrate on the upcoming conference and other short stuff I'm writing. The next round will not take nearly as long as I'll be revising for pacing and clarity, but tonight, I am so thankful to be done with this revision.
This historical has a long history. It's the first novel that I ever attempted to write, when I had no skills. The ideas were nebulous. There wasn't a burning question in my heart, just a desire to understand something that happened in India's history when I was ten years old. I can't say I do now, but over the years, I collected books and read articles, which made me ask even more questions. Much like when you do science.
I abandoned the novel almost as soon as I started it, because I didn't know how to write a novel, and decided to focus on short stories. I love the form because my head is full of stuff and it was a way to explore many different ideas. But at least once a year or so, for about a month, I worked on the historical. And each time I picked it up, I eliminated one of the plot threads because there was just too much going on ... I mean, you can't have a political intrigue, love, betrayal, industrial accidents, religious conflicts, and assassinations all in one book. Oh, and there was time travel too ... because I love time travel books. You can see the problems with this novice writer ...
This went on for five years. I'd work on the historical for a month and put it aside since I was busy with my young family and almost always on deadline doing work-for-hire. But this is not the ideal way to write a novel. Then for five more years, I put it away completely. I worked on a different novel, a contemporary. It took me three years to finish. I spent the second half of last year querying. But it was a disappointing experience. Even the agents who praised the book, didn't love it enough to take me on as a client. Three new novels were percolating in my head. But this historical wouldn't let go. I told myself I owed it to myself to finish this.
I am so happy I did and the timing couldn't be more perfect. The novel is so much richer now for having sat in a box for five years. I am no longer the same person I was five years ago, and the insights I gained have not just been linearly incremental, but exponential. My critique partner asked me whether I have intentionally put this book aside because I'm afraid. It is such a personal book.
Short answer, no, not intentionally. But I do think there is a right time for everything, and this is the right time for it, and not a moment sooner. I'm a better writer now. And being a Catholic makes all the difference in the world. Thank you, Lord.
Have you ever resurrected an old manuscript after many years?