I reached the end of the first draft of the novel I’ve been working on. I knew I was close to it, but it caught me by surprise. I started this project with a few broad strokes, one of which was the ending, so I knew it was coming but I wasn’t entirely sure what form it would take. I started this project for National Novel Writing Month 2020, did about half of it in the first pass, fell off working on it for most of 2021, and then finished it yesterday. Well, I reached the end, anyway.
“Finished” is a strong phrase that carries a great deal of implication with it that I’d like to avoid. It’s a rough draft. Emphasis on rough. It is complete, in that all the parts are there, but I don’t think it is ready for another people to read. I need to pull it apart, line up the pieces more neatly, make sure they’re all the same type of material, and then stitch it back together again. Plus all the usual stuff, like editing for world consistency (and I know there’s a few major problems there already), changing it from “writing what I see in my head” into “writing a story that moves smoothly,” and some level of copy editing since I don’t really check to make sure I’m using the right its/it’s on my initial pass.
Despite all the work yet to do, this is only the second time I’ve actually reached the end of a novel. The first time was a while ago, back in 2015 or 2016, and that story was a bit of a dumpster fire. I started rewriting it, but never finished it. I don’t think I was ready for something like that and my experience with daily blogging in 2017 and 2018 proved that inclination right. I think I could take a more successful stab at it nowadays, but I’d rather spend my time on this story right now. Feels more urgent and relevant. And like it’s a better story, too.
I should feel proud of myself for reaching this milestone. I should feel anything. Right now, though, all I feel is mild confusion about what methods I’ll use to do the stuff I want to do for editing and improving this story. I’ve got some ideas, but I’ve never had the opportunity or cause to use them before, so this will be a new experience for me. Which should also be exciting, but it just sort of feels like another day at the office.
I think that’s a result of how I’ve managed to build my writing expectations/tolerance/discipline over the past four months. From almost-daily blog posts to writing an extra 1000-2000 words a day for a month and now I’m continuing that with a brief break from word counts to figure out how to do the editing stuff I want to do. I used to think I’d print this sort of stuff out. That’s what I did for the last story I reached the end of. This story is twice that one’s length, though, and the thought of spending that much money on printing something just so I can have a physical copy of it feels wasteful. Maybe this is the time for me to learn how to use Scrivener.
Regardless, this was an accomplishment. There is more work to do, but I will actually be working on draft two, now. I’m fond of saying “you can’t write draft 2 until you’ve finished draft 1” and explaining that rewriting things before you finish draft 1 is just re-doing draft 1, not writing draft 2, but now I’m actually on draft 2 and the distinction I was making feels kind of pointless. Draft 2 is just draft 1 all over again, but better.
As usual, I’m probably overanalyzing this. Nothing wrong with that, though. I’ve earned it since I’ve firmly launched myself into uncharted territory and, so far, it hasn’t stopped me from actually getting work done. Time will tell if this sort of analysis is useful or detrimental to my process, but right now I feel like I should be feeling some kind of way about this and I just don’t feel any kind of way about it. Maybe it’ll finally hit me in a day or three, but right now it just feels like I completed a day’s allotment of writing time and nothing else.