My “What next?” is calling.

Writing the end of a draft is tough.

First you have to get the pace and timing right, and if you’re anything like me, the end of the draft is where all the action happens. You’ll be eager to tie up all the ends in one neat chunk, which runs the risk of making things move way too fast.

The ends of my works in progress tend to be almost in note form, ideas spread across a page just to get them down. Pace is a problem.

Once you’re past pace, though, there’s something else. The thing that no one will tell you about. Well, the thing that everyone will tell you about but until you feel it, you’ll never know. It’s the reason why writing a book is often compared to giving birth. People will tell you how painful labour is, but you’ll never get just how much it hurts and what the euphoria feels like until you’re there in the moment.

That’s the second thing. It’s scary finishing a draft, because even though there’s another three, four, five, however many drafts to squeeze out, the first one cements the idea. It provides the foundations for the great book. It is a starting point for your charaters and plots and will be the piece that, once it’s cooled, will provide the inspiration and encouragement you need to keep going and going. Writing “The End” on that initial manuscript is exciting, thrilling. It’s a high like no other, and one that a lot of writers never get to experience as real life interferes or they reach the last five thousand words and decide they hate the 60 thousand previous ones. So, writing “The End” is reserved for those few who make it.

And it feels fantastic.

It’ll also break your heart. Your characters will have spent days, weeks, months, even years having conversations on your head, deciding their fates, being real, and now – well, now they’re done. You have to leave them be, stop spying on their worlds and let them be free.

I always have a sadness when I reach the end of a first draft. I cried the first couple of times, in fact.

The second thing brings with it a fear. Once you’ve been ecstatic and empty in equal measures, cried through joy and sadness, and decided to hide the draft away to give yourself time to breathe, you’ll feel it.

You’ll be hit by the “What next?”

And only you will be able to answer that one.

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5 responses to “My “What next?” is calling.

  1. So interesting to read this. I had no idea that getting to the end of a manuscript would be so intense. I did nanowrimo a couple of years back and although I completed the 50, 000 words I didn’t finish the (truly terrible) story. I am not a novel writer, it’s a real marathon a novel, I am more of a short sprinter!

    The only thing I can compare it to is when I used to direct. I always felt depressed after a show. Writing is a little different because you still have the thing you created where as a show is gone but I guess it is a similar feeling having to say goodbye to your characters.

    There is a great story that Steven Pressfield tells about finishing his first book. His mentor said something along the lines of. Very good – now go and write another one. In other words the what next according to him is to keep on writing!

    Well done, you’re one of the ones who has actually finished their book, not everyone can say that!

    • I’m one of those irritating people who constantly has a stream of ideas going round and round in their heads, which is excellent. The problem I had up until recently was how to organise them. After I did my first NaNoWriMo and proved to myself I could write an 80K word novel in around three months, I realised I could keep doing it again and again and again.
      The only problem I have now is that I have a new idea every few weeks and when I’m between novels (like now) I can’t settle on a project which means I’m not as productive as I would like.
      I get the directing comparison too. I used to do stage management for local theatres when I was younger and the exhilaration after a performance was always intense but left me feeling somehow empty – I would never have those exact moments again.

  2. maddy@writingbubble

    I find it quite exciting to read this because I would love to write a book (I’m trying but keep getting distracted by short stories, poems, blogging and the rest of life!) so find the idea of this reward very motivating.

    The comparison to childbirth is very compelling – I remember after my second son was born thinking I would do pretty much anything to get that feeling (the one after the birth, not during!) again. So I had another child. But he’s our last so no more birth hormonal highs for me… but perhaps I could get the book high instead? But as you say, lots of writers never get there. Well done you for doing so! #writingwarriors

  3. Pingback: Commitment | Kristina writes

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