The Darkest Ice Cream of the Year
I once said writing a novel is sometimes like making love and sometimes like having a tooth pulled–and sometimes like making love while having a tooth pulled. I arrived at one of those joyful yet excruciating moments while working on THE DARKEST EVENING OF THE YEAR.
Because I am obsessive about the revision of each page–the word fussbudget is embarrassingly apt when I am brooding over whether to use a comma or a semicolon–I have more than once held on to a manuscript until the drop-dead date for delivery. When that date rolled around for this book, I had written everything, but I was unwilling to send all of it to my editor. I withheld the last fifty pages for another four days, causing a quiet panic in those at my publishing house who are responsible for meeting production deadlines.
Although the book was done, I felt that something was wrong with Chapter 63. The action worked, the characters were in character, the mood was sustained…but something felt wrong with it, some fine point of the villain’s motivation. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, I worked 12-hour days, trying to identify the source of my doubt, but couldn’t specify it to my satisfaction.
Nothing like this had ever happened to me. Previously, my worst struggles with a story had come in the first two-thirds, and the final third had been, if not a sweet swift toboggan run, at least a sleigh ride.
Sunday, I got up at 6:00 and set to work, revising, looking for the thorn I could feel but couldn’t see–and ended up working 22 hours, eating at my desk, before tumbling to the problem at 4:00 a.m. Monday morning. “Eureka!” I cried, but I was so weary and my voice was so weak that my shout of jubilation came out as a squeak.
The revisions required to Chapter 63 were minor, but after working 58 hours in four days, after having passed a night without sleep, I was unable to focus sharply enough to get them done in the little time that remained before the production schedule would be derailed. In desperation, I turned to that source of creative energy and literary enlightenment that is without equal: ice cream.
I shuffled to the kitchen and snared a Dreyer’s Slow-Churned Vanilla Almond Crunch bar from the freezer. I devoured this sweet-and-creamy muse, and felt the scales lift from my eyes; inspiration sparkled between my ears. I finished the revisions and e-mailed the final version of Chapter 63 to my editor with not a minute to spare. Although the American Heart Association will take issue with me, my advice to young writers stuck on a scene is to stop worrying about your arteries and give your wheel-spinning imagination what it needs to find traction: a tasty shot of fat and sugar.
— Dean Koontz, 2007