I have the novel planned out to the 34th chapter, now. The 34th chapter, as it stands, is the last chapter of the book. Unfortunately I am still working on chapter 26. And since chapter 26 was a giant pain in my ass, I shelved it and moved on to 27. For 26, I had written a preliminary draft but not gotten to the ending, and I still haven’t, but for 27 I hadn’t written any of it, yet.
28 I have never written on.
29 is near to finished, if I remember correctly. I liked how it came out initially.
30 hasn’t been written but for some brief notes on the initial idea, not much of which I expect to keep, but it’s a character interaction I’ve been looking forward to and I don’t want to write too much on it ahead of time.
31 is pretty much done, has been around since the early days and will likely retain much of its original form.
32 is a continuation and culmination of a plot, probably about half written already, the latter half of which is again something I want to experience and focus on intensely when I get to it.
33 has not been written.
34 will I hope be the end.
Obviously the chapters that have yet to be written need to be written, but even the chapters I think are near complete now may turn out not to be. Because the closer I get to the end, the more I am forced to keep the whole thing in mind, the whole plot, the whole picture, start to finish. It reminds me of sewing. I don’t have a ton of experience with sewing but I did have two years of Home Ec in junior high, and from what I remember, the patterns come in various pieces, which you pin and cut and sew together one by one, and this sleeve might look like a perfectly good sleeve now and so might that one, but once they’re both attached to the shirt they might be as mismatched as a thumb and a finger. And maybe it’s not even the sleeves, maybe the sleeves are perfect but the middle is what’s throwing off the whole perspective. Everything needs remeasured, recut, adjusted for balance, and so in a way the chapters I haven’t written yet are easier because there’s nothing to fix.
The toughest thing to do is to make the sleeve anyway. To know full well the shirt is a mess but to be willing to complete it a mess, and in so doing make more work for yourself later. Chapter 26 is only the latest to challenge me in this way. I try to let it loose, let it run, and then I find myself somewhere new that feels right, but I don’t know yet how it fits in with the rest. Chapter 26 was one I didn’t think would take long, either. All I had to do was find the end. But now the end seems to be suggesting I might need to readjust my plan for 33, and possibly 31. But it’s trying to be heavier than that, even. It’s already impacted 27 with its gravity, and probably will have a similar effect on 32. And obviously, 34, being the end, will be thematically tied into everything else.
So what’s to be done? I could’ve stopped 26 fourteen pages ago, before I even took this side-venture, which was a gamble anyway but the reason I haven’t dropped it is because I thought it was speaking to one theme and wound up coming back to another. It surprised me. I like being surprised.
Being surprised, however, doesn’t mean you’ve discovered closure, or even that you’ve discovered a path worth traveling, only that you’ve been made to look in an unexpected direction. It might all be fruitless. It might all need to be toned down, reined in. I can’t imagine these extra fourteen pages will remain fourteen pages, even if I do find an end to the chapter in one or two or seven more pages. It’s going to be hewn. Cut back.
Aaghhghgh but that’s the problem, you can’t create and edit at the same time, and it’s so so hard to take the long way around, to wander through the forest aimlessly until by luck you reach the other side and can look back on it and see a more direct way through.
What’s more, school has started again, I’m still working at the golf course, I’m feeling the pressure of having a free weekend now but will be grading all next weekend, plus there’s increased social activity, plus physical therapy for my shoulder once a week, not to mention the at-home physical therapy I’m supposed to be doing. All this pressure, all this pressure! I’m pulling my hair out over here.
But it feels better already just to complain a little bit. I know I have a good life, I’m lucky in so many ways that I often won’t allow myself the luxury of moaning about my problems. But I guess everybody has to, sometimes.
Also who am I kidding, there’s going to be a chapter 35. I know there’s something I’m forgetting. Which is better, it’s a better number than 34, it’ll be for the best.