My Novel Draft is Done and I’m Surprised By How I Feel

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. —Ray Bradbury

I saw the end coming. I knew the scenes that needed to be written, how long they needed to be, and how long it would take me to write that many words. I knew this first draft of my novel about Rapunzel would be done before August, and I was right. I finished yesterday, after three and a half years of writing, research, and interruptions.

My project notebooks, my research cards, and my 436-page first draft. Whew!
My project notebooks, my research cards, and my 436-page first draft. Whew!

Three and a half years. I can’t believe that I’ve worked on a writing project this long. The most amazing thing? It’s not really done. The draft is my road map, to help me discover the story I want to tell. After it rests for a few months, it will be time to revise it, keeping and adding only the things that tell the story I decide is The Story.

In the meantime, I’m terrified. Three and a half years is 42 months. I’ve been working on Rapunzel forever and I don’t know what’s next. I’ve got plenty of projects to choose from, including my more promising NaNoWriMo novels and stories I haven’t written yet.

Finishing this draft, which has been my writing goal for so long, has me full of conflicting ideas and emotions.

Part of me wants to party endlessly. I’ve earned a break. Look at how long I’ve been working on this! I should get a month to goof off, at least. (That it’s summer and I always feel like doing nothing for months doesn’t help any.) I should let myself play with other things, like sewing or drawing or painting. Or sleeping.

Part of me knows I’m not done just yet. Even though I intend to let the draft rest for at least three months before I look at it again, I have lots of little chores to do right now. I need to update my plot summary, make a list of research questions I still need to answer, and write down the ideas I have about where I want to go with this. Taking the time to do these things while I’m still thinking about them will save me time later, when I’m ready to pick this project up again.

Part of me fears that I will waste time if I don’t start in on a new project at once. At the same time, I’m terrified of picking the next project. What if I make a bad decision? Having so many choices means I have to put one of the projects ahead of the others. Should I pick up the book that I got stuck on now that I have ideas of how to fix it or will I just get stuck again? Which of the three books from my Twelve Kingdoms series should I finish first? I’m paralyzed by the thought I’ll make a big mistake about what’s next and put time and energy into something I can’t finish.

Mostly, I know that I am in trouble here because I have just crossed a finish line. I recently learned that finish line goals can keep us from developing habits. This is why it is imperative that I have a plan that keeps me writing. I haven’t been writing consistently for all this time; I’ve had to take breaks for various reasons, from vacations or illnesses to needing to focus on research for a while. But I need to pick up another project and get to work.

So I’m happy, terrified, paralyzed, annoyed, tired, and wrestling with doubt. I know my fear of making a mistake about what to work on next is going to be overpowered by my fear that I will stop writing altogether, even though that fear isn’t realistic.

I love writing. I don’t need to be afraid that I will quit. I know from experience I can’t. I have to stay drunk on writing, or I will go crazy.

14 thoughts on “My Novel Draft is Done and I’m Surprised By How I Feel”

  1. Heh! I know the feeling. Back when I finished “the Path of Blood” a couple years ago, I felt drunk with happiness. It felt like a vacation to just let the draft rest a while… then after a couple months it started to feel more like unemployment! I was kicking around ideas for my next project, then the end of my PhD, followed by real world unemployment, snuck up on me and writing had to take a back seat for a while. About 4 years went by, and here I am now, still mucking about with revision. In retrospect, I realize I ran away from writing for a while simply because I was scared to finish something and take responsibility for it. I had “sobered” from writing, so to speak.

    So yes, staying drunk on writing is about the best advice I could give you! Enjoy a bit of vacation, but it’s never too early to start brainstorming on the next project to fall in love with. That will also help you and give you an outlet when you get frustrated by revision – because that will happen, likely a lot!

    So here’s to you and your finished draft, Kit. Stay drunk! 😀

    1. Amazing how similar our reactions are to being done. I’m trying hard not to run away. My internal critic has been on my butt all this time that I’m not a real writer because I don’t finish anything, so now that my draft is done, what is she saying? It’s not really done, it still needs work. Slapping a gag on her and moving on. About to head to the library for my Friday writing session and so excited that I get to start working on something new!

      Hope your own revision woes end soon so you can get your book done!

  2. I really enjoyed reading your post on the completion of our draft. I am just at the beginning of writing my book and I hope to complete mine just as you did. The best thing I liked about this however and a real person telling how they really felt while writing their book and the completion. Thank you for this insight 🙂

    1. Hey, Amber! If I can do it, you can, too. It can get really hard out in the middle because it’s such a long process. I gave myself little goals along the way to help me keep writing, but this is one of the big ones I’ve been looking forward to. Good luck with your book.

      1. Thank you so much for your reply back. I also want to thank you for the idea of making myself have little goals along the way. I have decided to draft out a little goals I need to complete each day for my writing 😀

      2. Gretchen Rubin says: We manage what we measure (or something like that), and I used to to get this draft written. Every Monday, I make my goal list for the week, figuring out where my writing time will go and taking into account any challenges (appointments, meetings, vacations, etc) to keep them realistic. Monday rolls around again, I look to see how I did and set more goals. I’ve gotten a lot more writing done since I’ve started working this way. I hope little goals help you, too!

  3. Don’t worry sweetheart. It’ll be fine. Get it edited and then get it looked over and start the new project. I’m a NaNo participant every year and finally bit down my fear and now two of my novels are published. You’ll do fine.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement. I’m always amazed at how complex the emotions are that go with writing, but since a novel takes such a long time to complete, I suppose I shouldn’t be so surprised.

      Congrats on getting two novels published! That’s definitely on my to-do list. 🙂

      1. I’m also a NaNoWriMo junkie and I can write fast. But it’s hard to write something that’s complete. Hoping to speed things up as I learn what to do.

  4. I know the feeling! If I’m not panicking when I start a novel, I’m panicking in the middle when I think I’m never going to finish it (my current position). If not then, when I reach “the end” which isn’t really the end. If you’ve been this faithful for this long though, don’t be too fearful – you’ve already set the pattern to seeing it through to the actual end. 🙂

    1. LOL. Fear lurks at every stage of novel-writing all right. Thanks for the encouragement. I’ve been trying to hit this particular milestone for a long time. I’ll be even happier when editing is done and I have a book I don’t have to work on any more (except to sell). In the meantime, I’ll just keep putting one word after another… 🙂

  5. Found your blog post eerily close to what I’m experiencing. Particularly since my novel-in-progress also has a fairytale character. Been on the case 5+ years with gaps– “Are you still writing that novel?” a woman I know recently asked with undisguised disgust. But, hey, didn’t Harold Brodkey spend 30+ years on his novel? So there’s time. Revising is hard, though. Slow. A little scary– sometimes I make it worse, sometimes better. Shout out to Scrivener. Scrivener helps for revising novels. A lot. And I am a technological idiot. I wish you happy, productive, lovely writing. And me too.

    1. It was hard for me to admit that it took 3.5 years to get this draft done. I know I can write a rough draft (really rough) in 30 days, because I have done it for NaNoWriMo. So why did it take so long? Like you, I’ve had to take breaks. Right now, I’m re-reading Natalie Goldberg’s book Wild Mind and in it she talks about writing slowly and that it allows us to go deep and access richer material. I hope that’s what happened with Rapunzel. It certainly feels like it.

      I love Scrivener, too. It helps me to keep all my notes and research together with my draft so I can look things up on the fly. I’m hoping revision won’t be too hard, but we’ll find out when I get there. In the meantime, I need to get to work on something else.

      Good luck with your novel. I’m a fairy tale fan and would love to hear more about your project if you care to share. Thanks for your comment.

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