When you feel you’re 90% done, and you find that that last 10% is also 90%…
OK, that’s not true, it just feels that way. The truth of the matter is you were no where near as finished as passing whatever milestone it was, felt like. I’ve just been through this with the body-change on the vehicle I rolled on responding to the ambulance callout. We got the new body on, to discover the wiring looms did not match. Then it was change the wiring looms. That meant change all the light fittings, including the bizarre little ones inside the front panel. It also meant changing the dashboard to match the wiring looms. Fortunately — barring a few minor differences in the mounting, which needed contrivance — that was do-able. My good friend Jamie was able to go home with a conscience that he had delivered what he said was possible, and I had been terrified by. We’ plugged and fiddled and joined and swore… and it didn’t go. Then after some more fiddling… it did. We have LIFE… Mwhahaha! Frankencar lives! It lives! From dead and disparate parts, stirred the forces galvanic mine creation lives. Life unt voltage I give to it. And bolts through the neck.
Ok, we have only driven five yards forward and back, and there’s the last 10% (yes, that) to do to get it legal and drivable. And I won’t know if it is in fact fine for normal driving… until I can try driving normally… which won’t be until the last 10% is done. No, I am not trying it without brakes (which is where I am, now). I spent a full day on ‘trivia’ (the stuff I thought I could rip through in an hour) today. Still, the interior is now done. And, um, in truth a lot of what I did today… if I had left undone, the vehicle would still be nearly where it was yesterday. OK, it has seats again. That was important. Most of the rest was cosmetic.
It is, I admit, probably irrelevant cosmetic work — For example: The only person likely to know or care that the carpet is securely attached under the seats is me. But I have invested so much time and effort (to say nothing of stress and moments of terror) that to not invest time in that seems wrong.
All of this holds true for every book I have written: the huge relief that I’ve tied all the threads up into a satisfactory ending… and thereby 90% done, is soon superseded by finishing that… other 90%. Look, draft one to seven… editing, proofing, prettying, re-writing sections only I am even going to notice… typesetting, covers, etc. etc. I’ve taken as long about that as I have on the first draft. I shouldn’t. A lot of it is wasted time, really. I have got better as the years (and books) pass. Possibly a little better at not needing the cosmetics in the first place, and probably a little more realistic about the number of drafts I need to go through.
And this is writing point for the day: When the first draft is finished… you’re anything but finished… BUT don’t make it drag on forever. You’re not gaining very much – if anything at all, with endless re-edits and re-writes. Some of this (as in my finessing the body-swap) is possibly fear that all that work has been in vain. It’s not good enough, no one will like it etc. etc… well, like me needing to test-drive, you’re never going to know, unless you do try it.
There’s a time to kiss it goodbye, and start a new book