No matter what hobby or career you pursue, you probably know there is no feeling quite as good as finishing something you’ve worked on for a long time. I reached that milestone today. After 164 days of writing 30 chapters and 72, 561 words, I typed the last line of the last chapter for Virgilante at 7:43 pm. Of course I had to immediately call my BWB (Best Writing Buddy) Tammy Peplinski Francis, author of the upcoming Girl in the Jitterbug Dress. She’s finishing her own novel—is in fact within a couple of chapters of being done herself—so I knew she’d appreciate how I felt and would celebrate with me.
Is my novel finished? Of course not. I now get the joy and drudgery of editing, polishing, deleting, adding, etc. But getting the entire story down on paper, all the way to that last line, is an exhilarating and rewarding experience. It’s a release from the burden of Getting The Story Down On Paper, which can be a painful experience, especially for a pantser-style of writer, which I am. I knew the story in my head. But sometimes the words were hard to come by, to capture the nuances I felt. There were days when my Delete key was one of the keys I pressed most. But there were also days where my mind flew almost faster than my fingers could type. I can only imagine how it felt when writers wrote in longhand and pressed pen to paper for that last period. (I know a couple of writers who still write in longhand, but I honestly don’t get it. I have Power Tools (my computer and keyboard) and I am going to use them for all they’re worth.)
Writing Virgilante didn’t require as much research as my first novel, The Case of a Cold Trail and a Hot Musket, but it still required a fair amount. I was able to do a great deal of it online. When I wrote my very first novel, Wanda’s New Eyes (hopefully to be published later this year or early next year) the internet was still in its infancy (hence the serious need for a rewrite on that book). Google didn’t exist. Wikipedia didn’t exist. Amazon didn’t exist (which I used to look up products so I could easily describe them). For Wanda, much of my research was done at the library. Although there’s something romantic about walking through stacks, looking through books for the tidbits that bring realism and accuracy to a story, it’s also slow and tedious. For sheer access to information, quite literally at the touch of your fingers, there’s nothing like the internet and a fast computer.
Virgilante is going to my editor, Crystal Hubbard in September, so the month of August will be dedicated to tightening and polishing before she rips it to shreds. (Seriously though, I hope by the time I pass it to her it’s in such good shape she feels like she’s dancing through flowers as she reads it.) Crystal is both a published author and a professional editor. I can’t wait for her to go through it. I may not want to hear everything she has to say, but when we’re done it’ll be a much better book. My goal is to have it available in October.
What is Virgilante about? Here’s my elevator pitch:
Virgil Harris was your typical middle-aged man living in a small Texas town until his mother was beaten nearly to death by burglars. Now Virgil uses his family’s ability to alter the course of events as a way to distribute karmic justice to those escaping their deserved fate through regular means. All goes well until Virgil discovers there are others taking an interest in his handiwork.
I hope this makes you anxious to read it. The story came to me pretty much whole in a dream. But as I wrote, it morphed and blossomed into something much richer. What I originally intended as a short novella became a full-on 275 page novel. That’s one reason I’m a panster-style writer. I love letting the story be what it wants to be, to let the characters grow and change. I love being surprised by what comes off my fingers onto my screen.
The next biggest milestone will be the cover design from Karen Phillips. She’s had an early draft for a while, so has been working long before I typed that last word a couple of hours ago.
Tonight though, I will celebrate the big milestone of getting all the way to the end of the story. Any changes now will be to enhance or tighten the dialog and narratives, and to catch those little discrepancies that creep in, such as the age when Virgil moved to the town of Lichen changing from the early chapters to the later ones.
But the story… the story is done. Everyone who was to live, lived. Everyone who needed to die, died. Loose ends are neatly tied up. There’s just enough mystery in the closing scene to leave something to talk about, but hopefully not enough to leave a reader wanting to find me and punch me in the nose. No writer can ask for more out of a story. The End.