Last night at 8:34, I typed one more word, hit the period key, then sat back and exhaled a breath I'd been holding for a little over four years (which is a really, really long time!).
This was it. The end of the first draft of Fobbit. It's bigger than a breadbox (203,310 words; 674 pages), but smaller than Moby-Dick. I came in a little shorter than I'd earlier predicted, but I have no doubt the end result will be vastly different in height, weight and hair color.
As I poured a glass of celebratory Riesling, my wife said, "I'll bet you're excited."
"Excited" isn't quite the word. Relieved, unsettled, worried, and hopeful are more like it. When I look back on what I've got sitting in that massive file, I know there is a lot of work ahead: I need to stitch holes in the tattered plot and plump up characters who are currently so emaciated they're on an intravenous drip. There are problems galore, but I'm encouraged by something Anne Lamott wrote in Bird by Bird: For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.
Onward and upward!
By the way, it just occurred to me that I jumped into this blog so suddenly I never really described what the novel is about. Here's a shot at the proverbial "elevator pitch" (describing a book to a publisher before the elevator stops at his top-floor office):
Army public affairs soldiers, led by an inept officer prone to nosebleeds, muddle their way through the Iraq War, living the good life as "Fobbits" (soldiers who never leave the protection of the Forward Operating Base) while agonizing over paper cuts, inter-office politics, and writing the most-cheerful news release about casualties. Contrasted with the Fobbits, the novel also follows a company of soldiers who patrol the streets of Baghdad, dodging sniper bullets, grenades, and rocks tossed by angry Iraqis. Eventually, the two worlds collide in a climax both humorous and tragic.Like the novel itself, that pitch needs a lot of work, but you get the idea.
Put another way, I guess you could say, It's as if The Hurt Locker married The Office and they had a kid named Catch-22.
[UPDATE, 5/17/2014: Now, of course, you can hold Fobbit the Book in your hands. The novel was published by Grove/Atlantic in September 2012--in a much leaner, meaner, greener version than the 674-page bloated draft I was so proud of four years ago. More information on the book and where to buy it can be found at this webpage.]