I finished my novel today.
I’ve sent it off to Felicity and my boyfriend for initial feedback. In a few weeks, when I get my nerve up, I’ll send it out to other people as well.
It feels really strange.
I’ve been working on this book for a smidge over 3 years. From the very first handwritten pages of the first scene for this book idea I had, through four drafts, all the way to exporting the thing out of Scrivener in different formats, running a spellcheck and sending it off.
For three damn years I’ve had this nagging thing in my head, a consistent line in my to-do list: “work on your novel.” And now it feels very strange not carrying that around.
Over three years and four drafts I learned a lot about structural editing and stakes and turning points and character arcs. I learned how to take a banged out first draft and turn it into something more cohesive and functioning as a story.
Usually I know that a story is “done” and ready to hand off to betas when I can’t spot anything else glaring to fix. And I’m finally there. There are questions I have for betas, there are proofreading things I want to tweak and some internal consistency things like time of day that might be out of whack.
But the story is there.
Or at least as there as I can get it without external feedback.
It’s only my second novel attempt and I’ve never gotten this far with a novel before. I’m strangely detached from this. I’m not elated, I’m not proud, I’m not sad. I’m just… done. It’s the other way I know it’s time to send it off to other people.
I’m somewhat scared of the feedback, but not really. I feel like this book has done what it needed to do, regardless of the feedback. Yes, if I have consistent feedback on certain elements I’ll revise and strengthen it. Yes, I’ll consider shopping it around – I see it as a disservice to the last three years of work not to.
But if it comes back that it’s not compelling, or a mess, or just not viable, or that the revisions required are extensive and probably not worth doing that’s ok, too. Because I finished something this big. I proved to myself that I can not only write something 94,000-ish words long, but I can have a solid attempt at editing them and revising it. I’ve learned a lot from that and I’m happy with the work I’ve done, regardless of where it goes next.
I got a rejection this morning, too, for my longest running short story. I was ok with it; I knew I was finishing the novel today. I only had one, minor scene to fix. I wanted to finish before my birthday tomorrow and had set up my week to make sure that happened. It feels right, it feels like even though I’ve never gotten anything past “the gatekeepers” and into publication it doesn’t matter, really. I’m doing exactly what I should be as a writer. I’m writing things, finishing them, and putting them out there. Over and over again. Maybe slower than others, maybe slower than I’d like or think I should be, but I’m doing it enough to keep that process going. And that’s plenty to be proud of and satisfied with.
Last week, when I knew I was this close to finishing it, I started to feel panicky. What do I do now? My boyfriend started throwing out ideas of what I could do with my free time now I wasn’t writing the novel. I laughed and told him that I was being ridiculous and the question was hypothetical. I knew the answer.
The work doesn’t stop when the project does. The interest, the ideas, the enjoyment of the process, doesn’t let up just because I’m done with one of the bigger things.
But I am breathing out for a bit.
I’m going to finish some uni work, tidy up some of my short fiction for beta reading and submission to tie in with my New Year’s resolutions (more on that soon), and maybe go crazy and do some blogging.
But, for now, I’m satisfied and I’m going to let myself have a day where I don’t feel the nagging “you should be writing” feeling and instead the very rare, quiet “have written” feeling.
“I didn’t know if people would think my book was good or bad or horrible or beautiful and I didn’t care. I only knew I no longer had two hearts beating in my chest. I’d pulled one out with my bare hands. I’d suffered. I’d given it everything I had.” – Cheryl Strayed
 Which is a feature I went in expecting to horrible and have heard horror stories about. People, it is a wonder of the modern age! So customisable, so easy!
 Er, hopefully.
 Incidentally the short story which inspired and links into the novel
 Making sure I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t want to jinx myself!
 For those who missed it, it’s: “Write the next book”