About ten minutes ago I typed the last three words of the first draft of my new novel. I know a couple of you at least will be familiar with that strange mixture of sadness and elation that comes with this act. It feels wonderful, but there's that sweet tang of loss once you've hit that last full stop.
I've experienced this once before, about six months ago, when I finished the first draft of my previous novel. It feels different this time, and not just because it's my second time around. With this book, ever since I made the decision to turn the short story it began as into a novel, I've known what the last sentence was going to be. It's three words long, and I've had those three words in my head since the end of February this year. So, when I was typing them, it felt like coming home after a three-and-a-half month journey.
Of course, now the work begins. I'm going to start the first rewrite pretty much straight away, because I know specifically what needs doing. I imagine it happens with every novel - things take different turns as the book progresses, new ideas and themes arise, so you have to go back and adjust accordingly. In my case, there are three or four themes, subplots and character arcs I want to reinforce, plus a whole new aspect to the early part that needs writing in. So, I reckon the word count will grow slightly over the first revision. This will also be because when I write (and I write fast) I tend not to dwell much on setting, often at the expense of the overall feel of the story, so I'll need to address that as I go.
And then I'll turn it over to a couple of very kind souls who have agreed to beta read for me. That will be very scary, but I know their feedback will be invaluable in coming up with a more polished draft.
Finally, I want to take a second and, with your indulgence, pat myself on the back. And any of you who have taken this extraordinary step in life, and not just sat down to begin a novel, or sketched out ideas, or daydreamed about it - but actually sat for weeks and months and typed and typed and typed until you had a real, honest-to-God book written - you pat yourself on the back, too. It takes immeasurable personal sacrifice, guts and sheer force of will to write a novel from beginning to end. Okay, it might not be the same as running headlong into enemy fire, or raising a child, or any number of amazing things that human beings do every day, but still ... it's a hell of a thing.
Incidentally, I just realised I've written about 8,000 words in three days, including almost 5,000 in one sitting. Like I said, when it's rolling, I write fast!