This weekend saw the achievement of a bit of a personal milestone. Not a big one, but not a small one either; a middling one, you could say.
After a big push – 4,000 words in one day, at the end of which my head was rather swimming – I put the finishing touches to the first half of my next book. And, because this is the second part of a trilogy, it also marked the halfway point of the series itself.
It’s undoubtedly a good feeling. Not only because it took me less time to reach this stage than it did the first time around. Considering that my own writing has to fit around work and family, I think I can feel proud of completing 20 chapters – 120,000 words – in the last four and a bit months. For the first book, it took almost a year to do as much (though I sped up considerably for the second half).
But I find that I’m reflective about the milestone as well. Like a mountain climber who has climbed one peak, is halfway up his second and just caught sight of the bigger one looming up beyond it. There’s a sense of achievement, sure, but also a realisation of the amount of work and sheer grind still to come. The end is at once both in sight and almost dizzyingly intimidating. But why be here at all if your intention wasn’t to climb mountains, right?
For the first time, as well, I have sight of the conclusion not just of the work but this story – this world and all the characters in it, who have been living in my head for the past two years clamouring for my attention, shouting their stories into my ear and demanding that I commit them to paper.
And that saddens me in a way that’s difficult to describe. It’s a bit like having kids. I was there at the birth of all these characters, can still recall the moment they took on a shape of their own and started to make their way in the world. I’ve been there as they’ve fought and struggled and tried to steer them onto the right path. Often, they protest and decide they’d much rather be doing something else, thank you very much, and as an indulgent parent you let them, follow behind and try to make sure they don’t fall flat on their faces. They’re yours but at the same time belong to themselves, and you have to adapt and try to keep up.
But unlike any parent, I know what the future holds for these characters of mine, and with that knowledge comes both joy and guilt. Not everyone gets a happy ending. The idea that one day soon, probably a couple of years from now, I’ll say goodbye to them for good and move on to the next thing seems ludicrous, absurd. I’m expecting it to be both a relief and the hardest thing I will ever do.
But for now they are all continuing on their paths, and they’re not the only ones. Break over, this weary mountain climber hefts his pack once more and sets his sights on the next peak.