When do you celebrate finishing a novel?

If you’ve written a book, you know the moment: the last page is nigh. Perhaps you’ve known the last line all along, and you’re working feverishly toward it. Maybe you have no idea how the book will end but you sense it’s coming up soon…

I’ve written that last word in a novel seven times now. It’s a glorious moment.

But wait. A week later, you’re revising. The last word changes. The last chapter moves to the prologue. Everything after page 130 is axed. Major rewrite in progress!

And then your wife or husband disagrees with the content of chapter twelve. You rewrite it or move it to the end—this is the new ending! Why didn’t you think of that originally!

Your agent or editor calls. Great book, Austin, but let’s talk about that ending. Not so sure about it. Have you thought about giant spiders attacking out of nowhere? That would be cool.

Okay, you dial your editor back, but she had some good points about that last line. They did that in over 100 1960’s pulp fiction classics. It has to go or you’ll be laughed out of the business.

And then your opening sucks, now that you think about it. You awake from a dream with a completely awesome new idea for how to set the scene…

Argh! It never ends! The rewrites continue and continue and continue and continue and…Okay, you get the point.

When does a book end? When do you celebrate the birth of your literary baby?

This is actually not an easy question to answer.

But it’s important! Because that bottle of fine wine is waiting. Your ritual awaits you…

I’d like to confess something. I’m calling it. Time of arrival: 11:19pm, November 24, 2013. (Tonight. Right now.) That’s the moment my sequel to ISLANDS AT THE END OF THE WORLD was born. It’s called THE GIRL AT THE CENTER OF THE WORLD, and it is officially here, folks.

I had this same glorious moment three weeks ago. But I swear it’s true now. I’ve sent it to my agent. It’s the version of the book that she’s going to read over Thanksgiving break. It’s official.

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I’ve activated the ritual: A bottle of Frank Family Vineyards Reserve Chardonnay. I’ve had this very bottle of wine since the completion of novel two or three. It’s not too expensive (~$30). I’m not much of a white wine drinker, either. I infinitely prefer reds over whites. But this is my magic bottle. Always has been, always will be. I lived in Sacramento for 8 years. Very near Napa Valley. I went wine tasting there all the time. Frank Family’s buttery chardonnay, and the atmosphere of their old tasting room, sealed the deal for me.

Books, like people, are never finished. They can ALWAYS be improved upon. I’m looking forward to that moment when my first published novel is finally set it stone, like Han Solo being frozen in Carbonite. Believe me—I’ll blog about it. But until then, our novels are ALWAYS works in progress, as well they should be. It’s up to you to pick that moment when you want to celebrate having accomplished the birth of a novel. Maybe the skull fontanels haven’t quite formed yet. Or it’s having trouble breathing and the doctor has to take it into the next room for a moment. But there comes a time when you recognize it’s out. It’s ALIVE. Cut the cord. Throw some confetti. Pop the cork on that bottle of Frank Family chardonnay you’ve been waiting to drink.

Because, otherwise, that ambiguous moment will have come and gone.  You will have missed it. Poof. Suddenly your baby is out of diapers and riding a two-wheeler and you have no idea how time flew by so quickly.

Nothing is permanent. Especially a novel. Celebrate what you have when you know you have it. Don’t be afraid to re-celebrate if you have to. But there’s nothing like knowing—at least in that moment—when your labor of love has finally come to life.

After all, didn’t Han Solo eventually get unfrozen?

And then he killed Boba Fett and…

Shit. I meant for that Han Solo line to finish this blog post with a bang. Damn. And come to think of it, I really ought to move paragraph three to after paragraph five. And don’t forget to center justify the post when you pushlish it on wordpress…  Should I capitalize “Wordpress” or was that okay? Did I spell Boba Fett right? Ah, damn. Even this last silly paragraph which was trying to cleverly drive home the point has gone on too long, now. I should just erase it all and start ov…


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