What It Feels Like To Finish A Novel.

You don’t really know it’s over until it’s over.

I had thought I’d finish my first novel in three months. Three months seemed like an acceptably long time to put into it: a quarter of a year; the equivalent of my summer holidays from teaching. It also seemed like a short enough time to devote to something that sounded like a fanciful idea dreamed up by every cinematic portrayal of an exhausted professional: I am going to quit my job, (travel the world) and write a novel.

Failure loomed but not quite in the way that I expected.

Three months was long enough for me to write a draft. It would be another nine before I finished it.

I have to say, it doesn’t sit quite right to say that I am finished with it. Whenever I read the manuscript back through I am left unsettled by the feeling that there is still something I could do to make that bit better; to get it that much closer to what I had in my head.

There has to be a line, otherwise you’d go on writing and rewriting indefinitely. The problem is that you are the one to draw the line and it can be awfully hard to do just that.

So when I finished the novel the overwhelming feeling I had was that I wasn’t finished, was I? Could I be? That day I had done another pass through the book for errors and general polishing. For months I had been pruning the story: making it tighter, leaner, as good as I could possibly get it; reluctantly at first, then willingly, taking in the advice from a handful of people that I had let read it. It did feel as if amendments that I made on that day were as far as I could go. Tentatively, I said to myself that I had finished it.

Just as the day when I completed the first draft of the same book, there was absolutely nothing remarkable about the day I’m saying I finished it. I simply closed my computer and realised that it was up to me to make something of the occasion, if I even wanted to consider it an occasion. Aside from a two close friends, my partner and a family member nobody knew that I was even writing a novel. I marked the day in the end by emailing the finished product to those who did know, asking them if they’d be my readers once more. I asked them for their ruthlessness.

I took the afternoon off from writing having sent those emails and waited for a feeling that I obviously felt should have been there, to come. When it didn’t, I put on a French language video on YouTube for some background noise and decided to take a long shower. Once I was dry and had had enough of French I found myself back downstairs at my laptop, this time with a distinct excitement working its way up from the bottom of my stomach.

And I started a second book.

 

 

 

Advertisements

10 Comments

  1. Welcome back Avriii, and congratulations. Many people start writing a book but few bring it to fruition. And you’re so right, your story will never be perfect but you need to let it go at some stage. (I’ve got to the stage now where I just polish up my first draft, ensure that it’s error-free, and publish.)
    And you clearly enjoy the writing process if you’re embarking on a second πŸ™‚ Good luck.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Roy!! And thanks for the welcome back too πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ It’s nice to hear that letting it go was the right thing to do because there was a time I felt I could go on writing and rewriting it forever. It was nice to have a second novel to feel I could move on to but saying that, writing is so difficult. I sometimes feel I mustn’t be good at storytelling if I find it so demanding. How long does it take you to polish a first draft? Several months or weeks? I’d like to get that quick – and that confident – at writing. How do you manage it time-wise with other commitments? πŸ™‚

      Like

      1. If only I knew all the answers Avriii πŸ™‚ We all need to find our own way. In my case I feel I’ve given it my best shot once I’ve typed ‘The End’ – I don’t have the heart/patience for a re-write or heavy edit. I proofread it to death and publish.

        The actual writing for me is intermittent – I’ll write feverishly for a few days then maybe put it away for weeks. But my very latest took me 5-6 years in all because it was one I wanted to get just right.

        Oh, and feel you can always start a new project while another is ongoing. It can keep things fresh.

        I used to read a lot of writing advice but, in the end, you need to find your own way and, importantly, keep true to your own voice.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Liz! Thanks for your comment – it means a lot πŸ™‚ What kind of novel did you write? I have to say, I didn’t feel sad at all. I thought the process of writing was so tough, much tougher than I ever expected it to be. How did you deal with leaving those characters behind? Did you start a new novel or take some time off?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. The novel I wrote was inspired by a few random pieces of family history. It’s about a young girl from a small village in Vermont in the 1920s who is seduced by the glamour of a vaudeville player. I dealt with leaving the characters behind by digging deep into the education of my maternal grandmother.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for your congratulations! As I said in the post, it didn’t feel so much like a congratulatory moment but I suppose it is something to feel happy about. What kind of novel are you writing? It’s one of the most difficult things to do I think, made even more difficult by the fact that really, no matter how much advice you get or take, you’re on your own in figuring characters, plot etc.. out. Let me know; it’s always so interesting to hear about other people’s experiences! πŸ™‚

      Like

      1. I’m writing something that is a middle ground between adventure and horror. I have the gist of the story all laid out, how it begins, how it ends, who are the characters and the antagonists. It’s the protagonists that I don’t really get how to make them feel alive and different from each other. So for the time being, I’m reading a lot of stories to get a sense how characteristics work

        Liked by 1 person

  2. FΓ©licitations! I’d never thought French could be a way to cleanse one’s head. (Wouldn’t work for me, I’m French) Anyway, congrats on your first book, and starting a second. As Liz mentioned, one doesn’t want to leave the characters. Well, the characters can lead you to the other book.
    Cheers

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s