I just wanted to update people who are following my (very belabored) progress on the novel, The Utopia Machine. I started the novel at the end of 2011, more or less abandoned it, came up with another draft in 2014, and then traipsed off to China for a couple of years during which nary a word of the novel was written. I couldn’t even bear to look at it.

Well, it is now finished! At least, it is in enough of a shape for me to feel like it’s done, complete, in some way. And this is in large part thanks to my best friend, Xuwen, who kept nudging me to finish it. Even when I hated the thought of it. Even when I thought it was absolutely rubbish. I know that she got tired of saying that it’s actually pretty good, in her estimation, after a while, thanks to my petulant nihilistic rantings that it was all absolute drivel. But I always needed to hear that, and as of today, she is my first reader.

Yesterday, I printed off six copies of the thing (it weighs in at 77,201 words, and 316 A4 pages) and one of them was for her. Because even four weeks ago, I wasn’t sure I was going to do this thing – finish. I would say it was worth finishing just for the feeling I have right now, which is one of gratitude and relief. Relief, because for the first time in six years, I don’t feel guilty about not doing something. For the last six years, I have lived under the shadow of “I should be writing my novel”. Now I am free. And all because Xuwen said, “You should finish your novel. Stop writing whatever you’re writing (I was working on a short story I had started on a whim at the time) and work on your novel.” So I did.

And for the first time in a long time, I actually like the darn thing again. It’s impossible for me to be objective about it, of course, because so much of myself was poured into it, so much emotion and so much…investment. But yes, I like it. My characters are real to me once again, they have lives which I care about, and the world I created is before me. It may not sell, that’s a whole other journey I’ll have to take, but for now I am basking in the happiness of having finished. Thank you, Xuwen. If this thing ever makes it into book form, it will be dedicated to you.

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