Finishing: this subject is much with me as I labor towards the end of my sixth murder mystery, this one set in a tranquil village in the mountains of Central California. A sequel to Payback, the debut of a second series that takes place in a village somewhat like where I live, it hasn’t come easily. In fact it’s the most difficult of my six crime fiction novels.
My editor returned my first draft with comments. I knew the draft had faults but I couldn’t figure out how to fix them. If I was ever going to write The End I needed to get past the gaping plot holes and somewhat peculiar motivations for the Killer.
She pounced on all the faults, of course, because she’s a superb editor. We had a phone meeting and I did my best not to whimper. I know that critique is not criticism. What lies ahead to fix the problems is a painstaking restructuring of the characters and plot.
What is keeping me going at this point? Certainly not the money. I hear you all laughing.
The fame? I am famous on my block. They love me here. Not the fame then.
The joy of writing? Not hardly. I actually considered falling madly, foolishly in love with an unsuitable man just so I would have the excuse not to finish this wretched thing.
But something must keep me going. I like my characters. That must be it. The setting, yes, that too. The novel features a murder in a well-funded cattery, that’s a sanctuary for cats of all sorts: kittens that get adopted the same day they come in; cats who are frisky and cute; and senior cats who have beautiful markings. And it provides shelter for the sickly and unadoptables.
I have in mind Cat House on the Kings near Fresno, California, which I visited this summer when I got my American citizenship. I could not speak more highly of the work they do. That visit was a joy.
I do care about the subject matter of animal rescue. There are things I want to say.
Writing a book is a marathon exercise. It will drain from you every scrap of inborn talent, memories, dreams, fantasies and life experience. You may have come to the point where there’s nothing left but heart. Raw guts.
I suspect I’m at the 23- mile mark and can’t see the finish. That’s what I say to myself as I sit down every day to work on it. I will finish this and it will be good.