August 25th, 2012 by Ken Scholes
Finishing Requiem

Howdy folks and Happy Saturday!

I’m writing to you from my exercise bike in the Den of Ken — I’m still on my first mile while the coffee brews.  We’ll see how far into this post I get before I hit my ten miles.

Yesterday afternoon, I wrapped up the revisions for Requiem, my fourth novel (and the fourth novel in my series The Psalms of Isaak.)  I submitted the revised manuscript to my editor two weeks exactly after submitting the first draft.  I received her editorial feedback about a week after sending over the initial manuscript.

This book, as you know, is very late.  Later than the White Rabbit.  Of the four novels I’ve written, the only one not interrupted by catastrophe was Lamentation.  It was written in a six week blur of fear and loathing, so it really doesn’t get off the hook for being hard.  I’d been pretty frightened of novels and writing a 120k book in six weeks was pretty grueling.  Canticle and Antiphon were interrupted by the deaths of my mother and father respectively…and I finished Antiphon just as my daughters were being born.  Three years ago.

Requiem was more challenging than I ever imagined it would be.  First, there were the babies.  Two of them.  So I didn’t really even sit down to try until they were about a year old.  I wrote in fits and starts, managing probably the first five chapters before the PTSD flare-up took me out for a long stretch.  For a while, I couldn’t write at all.  Then, after the treatment in Chicago — and after I’d had some time to process all of the events that triggered the flare-up — I slowly came back to it.  I was working like a fiend on it when Jen’s grandma and father died within ten days of each other last Fall.  And work stopped.  Then, I was back to it in the spring when my step-mom died. And work stopped.

The lights came back on in late July which was good timing — the book was in Tor’s production calendar and we really didn’t want to move it again.  So with much encouragement from my editor and my friends and family, I went on a tear.  I wrapped the book in a two week push that left my wrists and hands sore, turned it over to my editor and then went on a revision tear that just concluded yesterday afternoon.

I hated Lamentation and Canticle both when I finished them — thought they were utter crap.  With Antiphon, I had practiced enough that I felt like it was an okay book.  At the end of Requiem, I found myself actually quite pleased.  Of course, time will tell on that but I feel pretty confident that the fourth installment in the Psalms will be well received.

So yesterday, I celebrated.   I took myself out to lunch and a congratulatory drink.  Then, I took my body out for a one hour massage where Sarah the Massage Therapist paid special attention to my hands, wrists, arms, shoulders.  I’ll find more celebration opportunities today.  And I’ll continue the research on my next project — a short story — by reading up on the Frank L. Baum’s Oz stories.

I was asked yesterday what finishing Requiem means to me.  It was a great question.

The first thing that came to mind was that it meant a close to this particular chapter of PTSD and loss.  There will be other losses.  I see some of them up around the bend a few years and I won’t be able to do a damned thing about that.  Losses will come.  Fortunately, the PTSD treatments make it easier but loss is loss and even writers without that particular bugbear experience work stoppages when people they love dearly die.

The second thing that came to mind is that it made me more confident of going full time.  I’ve mentioned here that I’ll be going full time in the not-so-distant future.  One of my fears has been around work stoppages.  And though I’m sure to have more, I can’t imagine ever having the confluence of 8 losses and 2 babies born in the same four year period again.  Statistically, I should be more likely to be run over by a herd of elephants.  Or not.

The third thing is that once this button is pushed and the book is accepted (which should happen Monday) I will get paid.  And I will get paid again when the book comes out.  And along the way, via my royalty statements, I’ll start seeing any foreign advances showing up.  To date, Germany and France are the only countries to have published all three books.  Spain published the first and dropped the series.  I can’t remember what’s happening in Russia and Bulgaria but I think they’ve only published the first.  And the same is true of Japan.  But any place that signs on for the book will be paying me, eventually, through the royalty process since the series earned out completely when Antiphon came out in hardcover.

Getting paid is nice.

The fourth thing and I think the most important is that at the end of it all, halfway into that brutal two week push to finish the first draft, I found myself having fun.  I was exhausted but having the time of my life.  I’d been very aware along the way of how my love affair with writing had gone sour and had become a complex and painful love/hate relationship.  Not during that last week of Requiem.  I was having a blast and fell completely in love with writing again.  I felt that joy of creation and that enthusiasm for seeing how my characters rise up to deal with the rocks I’m throwing at them.  So far this one means the most to me and it feeds the confidence about going full time.  If I love it, doing it will come naturally most of the time.  And I can already tell I’m flooded with energy and ideas.  I’ve started a production calendar for the first time since before my mom died in 2007.

And fifth, it means that I’m just one book away from concluding my first series and fulfilling my first book contract with Tor.  I’m happy about this, Tor’s happy about this, and the fans of the series are happy about this.  I’m one book away from figuring out what next.  Not bad, turning two interconnected short stories (one of which failed to stand alone) into a multi-volume series.  Especially for a boy who was terrified of anything longer than 15,000 words.

I’m sure that as I process this, I’ll discover other things that finishing means to me.  I know one big one is that it means I can slow up a bit, take in some movies and television, read some good books.  I’ll be working short stories and possibly a novelette over the next few months, then settling in around Thanksgiving to read the first four books carefully and start laying out the foundation for the last book, Hymn.

I love the questions that splash into our brains and ripple out.  “What does finishing Requiem mean to you?”

I think those questions are important and I’m really glad I was asked.

So what about you?  What are you finishing?  And what does it mean to you when you finally do?

Well, look at that!  I’m sitting at 9.5 miles now.  Not bad at all.

Trailer Boy out!


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