Here I am in the next to last phase of a long evolutionary process. My deadline is in eight days and I can’t help but feel but that the novel is closing in on its final form. To compare it to another long evolutionary process, this is around the time of the last major fork, the moment when homo sapiens and homo neanderthalensis diverge, when one potentiality will go unwritten, become extinct.
That’s not to say that every story ends as a human. Some are giraffes. Others are dinosaurs. But they all come from the same place, the first microbes in the white soup of the blank page. In some cases stories are like fish, their final state more closely resembling the primitive waterfaring form. Most times though, a tadpole becomes an elephant. Where we start is very rarely where we end.
I tell new authors that I really learned how to write a novel by writing one, by going through the entire process, from start to finish, for my first book. When you do that you come a way with a sense of deep time, so that when you do it again you can fix your place at any given moment in the overall cycle. The second book isn’t necessarily easier. But in this way, at least, you feel less lost.