One way novels are like long distance running: far enough in you’re doing everything to distract yourself from how much it hurts. Hurts to cut, rewrite, replot, hold in your head simultaneously a done-but-wrong paragraph/scene/branch and its not-as-good-but-work-in-progress alternate. I’m counting steps. I’m telling myself, I’ll keep this pace until I get to that bend or tree or outdoor cable box thing with the cover half falling off. And once I run past: Hmm that wasn’t so bad. I pick a new landmark. I write down in my brown Muji notebook a list of scenes I have left and cross them off one by one with a Sharpie. Imagining the next black line is more satisfying than imagining the end. The struggles are so immediate that the goals scale down. I’m delirious.
That where I am this week. In the thick. But close to the end, I can tell. My schedule’s getting erratic and I’ve stopped noticing weekends. Clutter spreads, as if the entropy is coming out of my manuscript and onto my desk, into my life. Another metaphor: Parts of the story seem to calcify as I try to change them; I break a bone and it heals over, twice as strong. Or put it this way: I’m swinging a pickaxe and the rock gets harder as I swing, hardly diamonds. Soon I will have excavated what I could, and I’ll have to wait for Time to seep into the cracks again, freeze and expand. I’ll come back when I hear the crash, with my tools newly sharp. And maybe a little dynamite.
But that’s getting ahead of myself.