On November 25th at 6:36am, after staying up through the night because, as usual, I didn’t think it would take as long as it ended up taking, I completed the draft of my Big Bad Book that I’d been working on for two years. I probably would’ve finished sooner if I hadn’t kept putting it on the back burner for months at a time to work on other projects, but it is what it is. It was the fourth complete draft I’ve ever finished, and the first one I’ve finished in about seven years. And it’s bad.
I was writing as usual, and had a sudden realization that I was only a few paragraphs away from the end, less than a page. It made me want to stop, to keep it unfinished for a little longer because this draft wasn’t like the others. This wasn’t going to be scrapped. This was going to be read. It was going to be revised and edited and sent off into the world. I was so used to writing this story, I didn’t know if I could be done with it. What would I do on airplanes when I finished all the decent movies and didn’t feel like reading my book? How would I pass the time at family gatherings when I was avoiding my family members? When I was in my room in the early hours of my morning, who would keep me company if not my characters?
But all of these thoughts flooded through my head for only a moment before I refocused on the story. A minute later it was done.
I remember when I finished the very first draft of my Big Bad Book back in 2010. It had taken about ten or eleven months to write, and I remember that euphoric feeling of accomplishment. I was fifteen years old and I’d written a book. It felt amazing. I ended up changing nearly everything and rewriting it years later, but none of that affected how I’d felt when I first finished that first draft.
That didn’t happen this time. It doesn’t feel finished. I don’t feel done. I don’t like how it ends and I think I might go back and change that or add to it. I also don’t think the end of the book is the end of the story, which is a problematic place to be in because traditional publishing doesn’t often want more than one. But let’s not worry about that quite yet. There are so many other things to worry about.
I remember in September 2014, sitting in class at university at a table of my writing peers and writing in my 400-page notebook. I reached the end of the very last page and one of my classmates asked “What are you going to do now?”
I closed the notebook, put it in my backpack, pulled out a brand-new 400-page notebook, opened it up, and continued writing. My classmate replied with, “Oh.”
That’s a little more what this feels like.
I’ve already gone and added to the beginning. I’ve never felt like I quite had the start right either, but I like it a lot more now. I suspect that’s what it’ll be like as I go through the entire 108 000 words. There’s still so much to do. I have to fix all those times I switched to present tense and back again because I couldn’t decide and wouldn’t let myself go back to fix it. And I have to go and take out a character who I managed to fit into nearly every scene despite them doing nothing. Things like that. And I don’t have the luxury of allowing it to be bad and moving on anymore. It’s time to get it right.
Maybe that’s why it doesn’t feel done. There’s still so much to do. I finished the draft but there’s so much to revise. I’ve shut that book but opened another. It took eleven years for me to get this far. I guess I’m not about to get my hopes up that this next stage will be faster, and therefore, although I finished my book, I am nowhere near finished with my book.
Feature Photo by Brent Gorwin on Unsplash