I have finished my third novel…

for about the fourth time.

The first time I finished was after a 6 week long fever dream wherein I ground out the first draft. This was done right after I sold my first novel to Random House in a 2 book deal. Thinks I: Awesome, I’m way ahead of the game with my second novel already in the can. Thinks they: Actually, we want another Cycler novel instead.

The second time I finished was over a year later. It had sat unread while I wrote (Re)Cycler and, when I returned it to it I was shocked to discover that it was actually quite bad. Moreover, it was basically the Cycler characters in a different setting. After much rewriting I was once again, finished.

Then I took a break, re-read it, and decided it was, at best, a good start. After much rewriting and a promise to deliver this much-delayed and, at this point, highly theoretical novel to my agent–oh yeah, and after finding the time somehow to adopt a baby during the process, I, once again, “finished.”

Then my agent sold it to Random House and my editor got her hands on it. Voila, not so finished any more.

Six months, later, a major shift in my thinking, and a massive rewrite later, I am–wait for it–finished.

I now await my editor’s second round of comments, after which, I will again be unfinished.

One might ask why I elect to use a word as loaded as “finished” to describe these various phases of the writing process. Perhaps I’d be better off just numbering the drafts and declaring “finished” the way economists declare recessions–i.e., after the fact. But this wouldn’t work. “Finished” is the reward toward which I labor. It’s the concept, delusory though it may be, that keeps me struggling. You can deal with the inevitable rewrites after you’ve had a few days, or a few weeks off. But you have to get to that point first. And after battling the beast month after month the last thing in the world you want to say to yourself is: cool, now I just have to do all of that over again.

So, yeah, for lack of a better word, I’m finished.