Final Hope, as a novel, has been a very trying road for me as a writer. This book, more than anything else I’ve tried to write, has forced me to grow in ways I never imagined.
It’s been a lot of hard work and there’s been a lot of heartache on this journey. Greg Thompson’s story has proven difficult for me to tell. It has challenged me and, at times, I’ve been found wanting.
What started out as a short story ten long years ago has taken shape into something that is so much more than what it once was. The road leading to this point has been filled with personal growth, as difficult as that often proves to be.
To put things in perspective, my current Out-takes folder has over 114,000 discarded words, while the manuscript itself is sitting at just under 39,000, fairly polished. With my current pacing, I suspect the final version will end up somewhere in the ballpark of around 60,000 words. I’m so close to being done, and there is still yet so much left to do.
I have about seven and a half chapters left to write. And yet, despite all the hard-won success I’ve seen on this journey, I find myself struggling with the complexity of the project. I understand that Final Hope is something else. It isn’t a book that easily fills the boxes of expectation many readers have. It’s a book that I’ve been writing, for me.
It’s taking a very long time to get the right words on the page. As a father of five with a full time job, I’ve often wrestled with the internal argument that this book is taking up far too much of my time. There have been days innumerable when I’ve sat my butt in this very same chair and stared at the page, willing the words to come.
My burning passion for this project is dead.
But, still, I write.
Some people might not understand this. Way back in one of my high school Creative Writing classes, one of the other students watched me poring over a poem, working to get the right words, drawing arrows from here to there on the page as I re-ordered the lines and stanzas.
After a while he left me with a comment that has stuck with me to this day. “Writing shouldn’t be that hard.”
Well, after all these years, I am finally better equipped to handle that bit of advice. That wasn’t his poem. This isn’t his book.
I know that this complex story isn’t likely to hit it big. Still, I have to write it. I have to finish Greg’s story. Somewhere out there is someone who needs this story in their life. They need me to keep working. To keep striving to get the right words. I’m writing this story for me, but I’m also writing it for them.
That said, I recently gave myself permission to work on a side project with my oldest son. This is something I was hesitant to do, simply due to the timing of it. I don’t want Final Hope to fall to the wayside. I don’t want to give up on my commitment to see it through. But the time we have with our children isn’t infinite. If Final Hope has to wait a little longer to be published, so be it.
I can only hope that this bit of distance gives me the space I need to finish Final Hope and gather my motivation to move on with the rest of the series without getting burnt out. For those of you who have been waiting for me to make good on all this supposed “potential” I have, I hope you’ll bear with me. I’m not giving up. I promise.
Final Hope is a complex story because it challenges me to write complex characters and intricate political motivations, all the while keeping the primary thread of the story moving forward without revealing too much along the way.
It’s a fine dance of telling the reader only what they need to know without making them feel like I’m keeping something from them. The more I work on the story, the harder it is for me to tell if I’ve crossed that line. Will readers still care about Greg and the journey this novel takes them on, or will they be shouting at the pages, “Get on with it, already!” Only time will tell.
As often as I end up trying to infer intent or big-picture motivations in real-life, I’m finding that people are far more complex. Even fictional ones. Admiral King is a perfect example of this. I never would have guessed he would have turned out as complex and 3-dimensional as he’s become when I had the first idea for this story back in 2008.
My new project, a series that will allow me to play with both science fiction and fantasy elements, has been so much fun to work on. Working on this project has allowed me to see just how much Final Hope has forced me to grow as a writer. Also, the writing has come at a much faster pace.
In the short amount of time I’ve been working on this new novel, I’ve managed to write 6,340 keeper words. I have what I feel is a very strong start to a book that I would love to read. After working for so long on Final Hope, that’s one luxury I seem to have lost. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent poring over Greg’s story in an effort to get it right.
There are only so many times you can write and re-write, read and re-read, the same material before you begin to lose objectivity. And it isn’t just Final Hope, which is supposed to be book one of a series. It’s the entire series. Some days I’m excited about that. Other days, it feels exhausting.
Final Hope might contain a lot of fantasy-laced science, but there is little room for actual fantasy within that world. Which feels stifling at times. I’ve also had to confront a lot of hard feelings dealing with events and situations I was in while I was in the military. In a lot of ways, writing Final Hope has been like talking with a very heavy-handed therapist. But I can’t just walk away. This is a story that I have to tell.