I’ve finished two books this evening. One I was reading, and one I was writing.
It’s a strange feeling when you finish the first draft of a novel you’ve been writing. It’s almost impossible to describe, but I’ll give it a go.
It’s the ending of a long journey – in this case, the third in a trilogy (as it stands, as there may be more to come later), so these characters have been with me for some years. I know them well. I’ve spent time with them, getting to know them, watching them and listening to them as they go about their business and have their adventures. I’ve been there for them when they needed me and couldn’t write when they wanted to shut up for a while (because it’s not me writing their story, but the characters themselves). I’ve written down what they told me, as a series of images and sounds in my head, and when I tried to force it, it didn’t work, because it’s not my story, it’s theirs. They control it, they drive it and now they’ve finished it. And I feel a combination of relief and emptiness.
Relief, because it’s finally done and I can at last start the editing process in earnest, right from the beginning of the first volume. And sadness because now I’ll miss it. I’ll miss hearing what my characters have to say (which is another reason I suspect this is not the end for them, just a break in proceedings).
During the writing of the second and third volumes, in particular, I’ve got to know a character who waltzed in on the breeze about a third of the way through the first volume, and insisted on telling her own story for the next two. She’s been there for me when I needed her, I’ve made her go through things that would scare the living hell out of me and yet she still says she’ll be there for me if I ever need her again.
I’m well aware that this doesn’t really explain how I’m feeling. If you’re a writer, you’ll know how I’m feeling right now. If not, it’s kind of hard to explain with any degree of accuracy. It just can’t be put into mere words. Which is strange, when you think that words are precisely what I’ve been using in order to tell these stories for the past ten years. (Longer, if you count its humble beginnings as a short story.) And that’s why it’s so odd.
The best way to describe it, I guess, is when you read a particularly wonderful novel and then you finish it and feel your life has been significantly altered by the experience. You stay in a dream realm for some time after you put the book down, because the characters stay with you way beyond the printed page. The difference as a writer is that the characters have to stay with you. Because they’re a part of you; a part of who you are.
How long will it be before I start another novel? I don’t know. But I do know it won’t be very long.