December 17, 2004

The End

So last night I was sitting on the bed, computer on my lap, typing away on my novel. Writing so fast these past couple of weeks, averaging ten pages a day. Writing every day. Writing and writing, oh yes. Time to finish my novel. Just two more weeks until my birthday, a firm and not so arbitrary deadline. I knew I'd be depressed on my birthday if I couldn't point to something big, something solid and real, that I'd accomplished this year. I needed that, needed to be done with the first draft of my first novel. To have that sense of completion.

Well. I do now. Last night my writing session ended not because I ran out of steam but because I ran out of story. Finis. The End. Chapter thirty and goodbye. 114,000 words. 549 pages. I printed it today. It's one hell of a thick tome.

I think I'm still in shock. I've been working on this sucker for so long now, writing so slowly in the cracks between the rest of my life. The first year I wrote 77 pages. I think I wrote that much this last week.

Elation is the wrong word, the wrong emotion. I should be celebrating, I know. I mean, it's an accomplishment, right? But I feel Ė well, a lot of things. A little sad. This has been my big huge always-present project for so long now. The characters live on in my brain, the texture of the story, the problems to solve in the upcoming set of pages, the sometimes-amazing flat-out joy as I write. I'll never create this particular first draft again, won't feel that pleasure as this particular world unfolds both with and without my conscious volition. I expect to write another novel, and that will be a similar pleasure, but I also know that each manuscript will have its own flavor, it's own joys, and the specific stream of consciousness tone and deeply bittersweet romance of this one will likely be a singular experience. And so yes, that's sad.

I also feel relieved. I made it all the way to the end. I wasn't sure at some points along the way, had no idea how I was going to get from point A to point Z and build the character arcs I wanted in the process. Some big sequences were daunting before I tackled them. Not anymore. Now they're written. To be rewritten, yes, but that's an utterly distinct kind of brain work. I did it. Got all the way through, told the story I wanted to tell.

But I also feel like I'm leaving something unfinished. Just because you write The End doesnít make it so. I'm not happy with the last ten pages, for example. Maybe I rushed or maybe it's just a tricky passage, but it doesn't feel right and that nags at me. Not a satisfying way to end, y'know? And the whole second half of the book is pretty much the way it first came out of my head onto the screen. It's probably pretty raw stuff, with sentences that don't flow as well as they should, dialogue that says too much, emotional beats that got left behind in the flush of writing. It needs editing. It needs me. It's not ready to go running off on its own yet. Not all grown up yet. Iím not done yet. And so The End can be deceiving. It's an entire document, but it's not a complete one.

But yes, mingled in among all those other emotions, I do have a kind of deep pleasure in the thought: I wrote a novel. It's got a beginning, a middle, an end. I did that. And that part does feel mighty good.

Posted by Tamar at December 17, 2004 10:59 PM

CONGRATS!!!! I got my first rough draft finished a year and a half ago. I'm still working on revisions (for reasons I won't go into here), but I just recently finished ny second rough draft as well. That first novel is something else - it is everything. It's what you learn with, realize your potential with, your first baby, and so much more. And the work that goes into it! Enjoy it! :)

Posted by: domynoe at December 17, 2004 11:48 PM

Hey -- nearly 2 weeks shy of your deadline, too!

Deep congratulations. I hope you let Dan bring home flowers, or at least take you out to a (chocolate-free?) dinner. I remember feeling, when I finished my first, like I deserved the kind of party that usually comes with graduation from college.

And now you get to, after a break, play with the second draft. (My least-favorite stage, but likely your work needs less than mine does at that stage,) Those "But it needs...." feelings can wait until then. Right now, savor the victory. Not everyone can do this, but you just did.

Posted by: Chris at December 18, 2004 06:54 AM

Forget all that introspection crap. You WROTE a NOVEL. You did it. You persevered. And you did it while slogging through Damian's special challenges and all the emotional and other types of work that required. You are awesome. No buts or stills about it!

Champagne is in order. i hope there's a bottle in your house that's been waiting for this day. Rewrite? Sure. But everyone has to. That doesn't mean anything, other than you are now officially a novelist.

Wow. I'm so in awe of you.

Posted by: Tiny Coconut at December 20, 2004 09:30 AM