Whelp, it took…four years? Five? I honestly can’t remember. At any rate, last week I finished the first full draft of Echoes from the Valley: The Uncanny Files of Emil Fitzhugh. This one, like Darkness in the Valley, ended up being much longer and more involved than I anticipated, so we’re looking at a 105,000-word novel/story cycle, or around 425 pages.
Today I printed the full thing off, and seeing it all in one place — beginning, middle, and end – was a great feeling. Of course there’s still a lot of work ahead. Parts of it that I finished quite some time ago have been through several rounds of revisions, but at least a third of it hasn’t been edited in any form. I also tend to go through my projects, however large or small, with a fine-toothed comb. So keeping my general schedule in mind, I expect another two years or so will pass before this is published…but it will be.
I can’t presume to have much of an objective opinion on it yet, but authors are often the worst judges of how their own work will be received anyway. That said, even at this stage I do feel this one works. Over the last five weeks, while I was working on the final 70 pages virtually every day, everything connected, and the way forward became crystal clear.
I love that feeling…of going out, setting up, knocking out several pages, ending the day’s work on a high note, then repeating that day after day for weeks. I genuinely couldn’t wait to finally write the ending I’d visualized for several years, and when I got to it, there was no uncertainty at all. That doesn’t mean it was easy work, but it was smooth. It took years to get to that stage with this project, but I did get there.
That brings to me a point I’ve made over and over again, but which I can’t emphasize strongly enough: if something means a lot to you, it’s worth doing, and if it’s worth doing, it’s worth finishing.
Like I said, this wasn’t an easy book to write. It has a lot of moving parts, and figuring out how they all connect (not just with each other, but with the first two books), even with a focal end point in mind, was a big challenge. Beyond that, I took breaks to write Dark Nights and Candlelight and Magic Things, handled some significant life changes, and kept up with teaching (my “day job”).
The solution was in recognizing the truth of the old (some might say threadbare) cliche, “Take things one step at a time.” If you can take one step, you can take the next. There may be more (sometimes many more) steps than you planned, they may be steeper (sometimes much steeper) than you anticipated, but in the end, there should be no quitting on what you truly care about, and that’s the way forward. If it means something to you, keep putting one foot in front of the other, and eventually you’ll get there, no matter how long it takes. It’s as beautifully simple as that.
Speaking of long-term goals, just last weekend we drove the 500 miles to Chicago, and then on to Waukegan – which, as any good Ray Bradbury reader knows, is “Green Town,” the town where he was born and lived until he was 13, and the inspirational setting for many of his greatest stories. I’ve wanted to make that trip since I was 17. So it took 27 years, but I finally got there.
It was, I’m thrilled to say, everything I hoped it would be. More on that soon.