This weekend I sent my “final” draft of Where Waters Converge, the Second Song, to my editor. Obviously, it isn’t final, as the editor (who has worked with me on many drafts thus far) will have plenty of remaining suggestions for changes. Over the last few years we’ve removed several characters, introduced new ones, and cut probably 15,000 words from early drafts. But we’re close. I’ll have one more chance to complete the novel and publish it in March.
As a librarian, I will then consider that the “final” draft of the novel. It will be the version I’m ostensibly on public record having published, as it were. But as a writer I don’t see it that way. The only reason it’s finished is because, for sanity’s sake, I’ll have to move on.
Like much of the world, I’m saddened and shocked by the death of David Bowie. I can’t say I was his biggest fan–I know a lot of people who know far more about him and music in general than I do. But he has always inspired me. He’s made me feel a whole range of emotions with his art, everything from awe to discomfort, love to yearning, pride and shame and hope and despair.
Which is why I love this portion of an interview he did with Charlie Rose in the 90s. The sense of frustration and anger artists feel is very real–this almost cathartic need to express, which doesn’t always happen when and where and how we want it to. The feeling of “finishing” a novel to me is really more of “okay, this is good enough, I’m proud of it, and I can finally move on.”
But, to what?
This is what Bowie mastered, of course, and what others have waxed fare more eloquently than I in recent days: reinvention. Metamorphosis. Re-imagining one’s self. Bowie reminded us over and over, culminating with his final act, his final album and passing, that life and death are so illusory. Rebirth is what is real. We all understand it. Deep in the layers of our existence, we know this to be the only truism. Change.
So, I will publish Where Waters Converge in March and move on. To the Third Song, tentatively titled Cover Thy Sun, O God, and planned for release in late 2017. But this novel won’t be “finished.”
Because there is no such thing. There is only transformation.