I felt great when I typed: THE END.
These were the final words in the first draft of a much delayed and waylaid fifth in my Candy’s Monsters series. I’d started it a few years ago and only completed it after the deaths of both of my parents AND the completion of drafts of two full length, if imperfect, novels. In other words, it was a long haul to THE END and time to celebrate… But as soon as I’d acknowledged that I was a big step closer to a new Monster, a weird tickling feeling set in.
It’s the writer version of post-partum blues.
I will not diminish the real, sometimes devastating, hormonally-driven, post-partum mood disorder experienced by many women after giving birth by saying it’s the same as the weird dejection writers experience after they’ve completed a draft. It’s more accurate to say that the writer’s shaky feelings of loss are on the same human continuum—way at the tolerable end—but still on a bluesy spectrum.
Finishing the draft is a step toward sending the book out into the world. It’s a notable project completed and it leaves a peculiar empty feeling even in the midst of a celebration of DONE.
Why? I’m not sure. I just know that this is often part of the game. Finishing the first draft means that someone—a friend, another writer in a writer group, an editor, a trusted mentor—will read the manuscript. And that means it will leave the writer’s hands.
After THE END comes doubt, anticipation, excitement, and a long list of mixed emotions. After THE END comes notes, edits, and second drafts. I’ve been there before and I’ll be there again, but it still feels lonely. It’s like I miss the characters talking in my head. The second go round will improve the book. It will become a better story, but the characters and I will never talk with the ease and freedom of a first draft.
I’ve yet to give the manuscript to a first reader. At least I haven’t looked at it since and resisting that temptation is important. It’s been a couple of weeks and the feeling lingers… The cure? Starting something NEW!