The Pain of Salvation
It's not easy. I started this book maybe 17-18 years ago and the second half of the manuscript was added about 12 years ago, so it already covers a lot of ground. I got better as a writer while I was working on it, and I can see the change as the story goes on. The early parts are rough, and the second half is much tighter and more focused. I'm surprised at both the things I did wrong, and the things I did right. The plotting and pacing are lumpy, but the characterization is really quite good. The voice is sometimes too stilted, but other times comes across as archaic and grand as I intended. In places the dialogue has a wonderful, stark beauty, and other times it is far too declamatory and pompous. I was only hitting what I aimed at about half the time at the beginning, better than that towards the end.
I have to remind myself the kind of pace I was restricted to back then. I was working at the very limits of what I could do, and it made for slow going. A lot of times I would only get a few paragraphs, or a page out in over an hour of work. I wrote over 100,000 words 200-300 words at a time, and I can remember how exhausting it was. The quality of the prose jumps up and down like a film shot with different qualities of stock, as on one day I would be really 'on' and other days I just didn't have it. In those days I relied too much on inspiration, as I didn't have craft and experience to fall back on. Now i don't have those kinds of problems, and even on a bad day I can get down what I need to write. That's been the major revolution in my creative life since those days - I no longer have to await the thunderbolt.
Oh, but the thunderbolts are sweet. I meant what I wrote in those days, I meant it so hard. Even after all these years I don't know if I have ever written anything I meant so fiercely as this. Last night I read through a chapter that was so personal for me, and still cuts so close to the bone, that I sat here, crying like a child at words I wrote when I was not yet thirty. Just thinking about it is tearing me up. Re-reading that was the hardest thing, the very hardest thing. I don't know if it will ever mean anything to anyone else, but today that doesn't matter to me. Today I just know I have to finish this, no matter what else I do. I have to finish speaking with a breath I drew almost twenty years ago. I cannot leave this undone, to be published maybe someday as 'marginalia' or 'unfinished fragment'. I can't leave it like that.