Today I finished my final revision on my novel, The Divorce Girl, which is going to my copy editor for several months before my publisher begins designing the book to be released next June. While it’ll be 10-11 months before I hold the book in my hands, that’s small potatoes compared to my journey with this novel: I began writing the book when Forest was a creepy-crawly baby, about 16 years ago. I recently found a pretty advanced revision from 2002. And to be honest, I’ve been writing this book in my head since about 1975, so it’s a shaky, scary and strange thing to be kinda sorta pretty much actually done. I’ve also been down the publishing wormhole, working with three agents and writing hundreds of query letters.
I’ve worked on this book for so long I actually have passages memorized. Even more so, the characters are as real to me as any real-life characters milling through my days. They may exist in a parallel universe, but so do I, and to be finishing the book means my relationship with that universe will change. I know from past publications that it’s not like I’ll lose my characters — after all, especially in the first year of doing every possible reading I can (probably even stopping people on the street to read them a passage if they’ll listen), I’ll be hanging out with Deborah, Liz, Mark, Hank, the rabbi, Boy and Big Boy and the others. On the other hand, I won’t be revealing in print more scenes with them, threading through what everyone is doing in the right balance for a particular chapter, or the other eternal work of revision when the manuscript is 325 pages long.
Mostly, what I want to say right now is that I love my characters. They’ve taught me so much about how we survive trauma and loss. They’ve brought me ecstatic humor and have made me cry many times (I know — nothing more pathetic than a writer crying over her computer as she writes because the writing is just so darn moving). They’ve been my friends and let me be their confidant. So as I let go of the control panel (as if it were my hands and not theirs all along on the buttons and dials), I just want to thank them for so many years and reassure myself that I’ll continue to learn from them, watching for what time reveals of who they are and what it says to me about how to live.