On Saturday, October 17, I sat at my dining room table in my empty apartment and accidentally wrote 8,500 words over the course of eight hours. By 6:40pm, I was staring at a blinking cursor after the word “END” and thinking, What. The hell. Just happened.
I texted a few writer friends who knew I was working on this novel, that I’d just finished the first draft of hail the pumpkin king. I texted my parents, who sent me a lot of pumpkin and crown emojis.
Then I collapsed onto the couch where I stayed for two hours, staring at the ceiling and listening to the same angsty David Bowie song over and over.
I don’t really know what I was expecting to feel. Maybe something similar to what I felt when I finished the first draft of Privateer three-ish years ago. Like, happy, maybe? Excited? When I finished Privateer, I was in a car driving to northern California with my dad, and I had been working on it for a year and a half. I was so relieved, it was insane.
But when I finished hail the pumpkin king this weekend, I’d only been writing it for a solid six months. This book left me feeling a little bit hollowed out. I guess that could be because I wrote it so fast – faster than I’ve ever written a book before.
(This is my fifth. Book.)
But I think it’s also because of the story I was telling in pumpkin king, and the characters who were telling it. I talked a lot about Charmaine (my main character in Privateer) on this blog when I was writing her story, but I didn’t talk that much about Winnie (the MC in pumpkin king). Writing Charmaine was like being outside during a hurricane – loud and stubborn and relentless. Writing Winnie was more like jumping off a cliff and loving the fall.
Winnie is unlike any character I’ve written. She’s good, when I usually write fairly morally questionable characters. And she’s kind. And brave. And I took this good character and twisted her into something dark and wild and dangerous.
And I had to trust that it worked.
I don’t know if it worked.
But I want it to work so badly.
Maybe that’s why I feel weird about the whole thing.
Honestly, those few hours when I was lying on my couch were so precious to me. I wrote Privateer with the whole Internet watching over my shoulder on Figment, so it felt natural to announce online that I’d finished it the split-second after it happened. But this book has taken me back to my roots, making me remember what it felt like to write for the sheer joy of it.
So, those few moments when no one else knew it was done? Those were my moments. I kept them. I held them. I waited for them to slip away like I knew they would. And then, they did.
You’ll have to forgive me, because I have a lot of half-formed thoughts about this book, still being less than 48 hours out from when I closed the draft. But I think… this book has always been a story about omens. About mirages and visions and monsters and desires that you can never quite pin to the floor. Those are subjects I think the fairytale genre handles better than any other form. It’s why I love it.
I think there’s always darkness woven through the stories we tell each other growing up; it’s that fascination that reminds us that we are creatures of light and dark, made of fire and ash.
The last few paragraphs of hail the pumpkin king are about a raven. Without spoilers, this is a character who has been with Winnie down all the twisted paths that she takes, a sort of guardian. I was thinking about this on Sunday afternoon while jogging down the road by my apartment (also the first time in 30+ hours I’d been outside), and…
This is going to sound like I made it up for the purpose of this story, but I swear to God, a giant-ass raven swooped down from a tree in front of me, effectively scaring the crap out of me and forcing me to stop to watch. This thing had a wingspan that was probably wider than I can reach with both arms out. And it was dead silent, flying barely four feet over my head.
I looked at it and it looked at me, and I had two thoughts: 1.) Wow I am Edgar Allen Poe right now. 2.) If that’s not an omen of something, I don’t know what is.
So this has been my sad attempt at a reflection post. I’m going to be taking a break for a little while before diving into revisions – probably spending some time with the opening pages of Privateer, which continue to elude me. Continue to post #FirstDraftSeries quotes on Instagram, and probably continue pin stuff to the pumpkin king storyboard (which now somehow has over 700 followers???).
Maybe read some new books. Maybe reread old ones.
And for those wondering, I have no idea if I’m going to do NaNoWriMo this year. That’s a terrible question and you should ask another one. Like where the hell did that giant-ass raven come from. That is a good question.
hail the pumpkin king Draft 1 wordcount: 108,500
Got any book recommendations for me while I take a break from noveling? Leave ’em in the comments, por favor. I will probably take you up on them.