sign up to get the latest updates from Barbara Stark-Nemon
  • Barbara Stark-Nemon

A Manuscript Finished, A Year Begun


Finishing a manuscript for a new book feels a little like the scene in the movie Ghost when the psychic Oda Mae Brown must exorcise the spirit that has inhabited her to do his bidding. Whoopi Goldberg, who brilliantly portrays Oda Mae, enacts the expulsion with intense physicality, afterward expressing deep gratitude at having her own body, voice and mind returned to her control. Letting go of a novel for the first time in several years, has a similar element of relief at getting one's life back, but it is a more subtle casting out.

The characters and story in Hard Cider (working title) that have lived in my mind and heart have become a part of me. They have also taken away a part of me, in this case, off to the first external editor. Now, I must extend myself and be open to influence and change to the book, beyond my own sense of it and the input of the select few who have critiqued it so far.

Just as there is an arc to every story, there is an arc to the process of writing that story, and this interval, post-first-draft, pre-editorial-revisions, is a weird plateau. A touch of emptiness follows initial exhaustion after the Herculean effort to tie up loose ends, sustain the story’s force, and leave each character in an acceptable place. The laser focus of so much creative energy departed in a blink.

I realize, now, that it wasn’t only the horror of the fall election that left me feeling bereft and in a fog. It is the transition from #amwriting to #amnotquiteediting. I stumble around a bit, occupied by the aftermath of holiday entertaining, and caring for my husband’s broken ankle. I look in the mirror and see a bit of a wreck. I know what I need to do – for myself, for continued marketing efforts for Even in Darkness, and yes, to begin the research for another novel.

And yet, I allowed this curious mixture of grief and anticipation to roil around my mood and spirit, just long enough to deliver me to this first week of the New Year. We had a family gathering in a lovely spot, and Chanukah celebrations that reminded me that what we already have is generally all we need. Now is the time to reset - to put love, beauty, the tools I already have, and a better attitude to work. There’s a lot of work to do.

Happy New Year with gratitude to friends, loved ones, readers and writers, all of whom sustain me!