So this is it folks; after a month between jobs where I got to write for four hours a day, and managed – somehow – to produce 27,000 words in that time, I finally got to type ‘The End’ at the end of the first draft of my book.
It was an odd experience. On the one hand I was elated; immensely relieved that I’d actually been able to write a whole book. And it wasn’t a completely awful mess of rubbish and nonsense, even if it will need mountains of editing to make it into something I can bear to be seen with in public. On the other hand, I was ready to weep into my keyboard. For me, there was an odd sense of loss that came from having the story completely written down, perhaps because my excitement at the potential of it had to end when that potential became actual. Or perhaps I’ve just enjoyed the writing process so much – occasional furies and hair-tearing frustrations notwithstanding – that I’m sorry to have reached the end of this phase of it.
In my final week of writing, I was impatient to finish. Not in a ‘I hate this book and want it to be over’ sort of way. It was more like the story was tumbling out of my head, and I had to try and hold it back a little to prevent burnout. I could easily have ended up typing into the night, bleary eyed and hunchbacked at my laptop, but I knew that if I did that, I’d be even more exhausted than I was anyway. I slept for almost the whole day after I’d finished, and had a lingering headache for a few days afterwards, which I think was my writing brain’s way of telling me in no uncertain terms that I needed a rest.
I did rest, and let myself enjoy a sense of achievement, basking in it for a day or two before printing the whole draft out and going through it with a variety of coloured pens (red for required changes to the plot, green for sentence and paragraph level amendments). This was mainly to sort out some glaring continuity errors and accidentally terrible grammar, and the resulting, slightly tidier draft was then emailed to my current tutor on the MA in Creative Writing that I’m studying for.
So now I await his feedback. I’m slightly nervous, and vacillate between gloomily preparing myself for a list of criticisms as long as my arm, ending in a request for a total re-write, and more cheerful reminders to myself that the whole point of doing an MA is to improve. The point of every single piece of feedback that I get from my tutor is to make me a better writer, and to make my work more publishable. I’ve found this useful to remember in the face of criticism, and I know how important resilience and tenacity are if I want to get anywhere with my writing.
So, I take another deep breath, remind myself how far I’ve come since the start of the course, and then check my emails for the 87th time today… because the end isn’t really then end, is it? It’s just the start of the editing process. I have friends with books who wrote seven or eight drafts of them. Bearing that in mind it’s probably time for me to put my basking to one side, take several steps back from my work, and sharpen my delete key. I’ll let you know how I get on.