Thursday, 12 April 2012

Finishing the first draft

Today I wrote the last words of an almost-230k project. Then I sat back and looked at it for a few minutes and didn't really think about anything much. I just felt tired. No euphoria, no tears, not even a massive sense of loss. This was a project and a character I'd spent over a year with and the only reaction I could come up with after putting a close to his story was a general sense of tiredness.

I posted to this effect on AprNoWriMo and April Fools and I think I even added a tweet somewhere along the line. Still not feeling anything. Then I ran the usual backups... oh, there's a feeling - the conviction that if I lose this story now things are going to get broken. The numbness was starting to wear off. A couple of tomato sandwiches and a session of watching death metal videos on the internet helped even more. By then it was time to start getting ready for the evening feeding and milking and somewhere in the middle of sweeping the dairy floor I discovered that the broom handle unscrews from the head.

Since the handle is broken, that's a bigger discovery than you might expect. It made me happy, anyway.

I started thinking about the effect of finishing that first draft at around the same time I was playing with broom handles. I'd pulled everything I possibly could out of myself to come up with the ending. I'd grabbed the souls of both protagonist and author and pounded them to a pulp. It's only right that doing something like that should have a big effect on me. I've spent my writing time over the past few days literally in tears at the keyboard. Yes, that is a correct use of 'literally'. I still have today's stack of used tissues to prove it.

There was more than that, though. This character and I had the kind of relationship that meant I'd spent a lot of time wanting to cry over what was happening in the story. I've walked away from the computer because I was too emotionally involved to be able to face doing some of the things I did to him. If every story was like this I don't know if I'd ever have been able to prod myself into finishing drafts.

All right, I confess: I'm never happy with a story I've written that doesn't make me cry at the end. Somewhere during the story, anyway. A moment like that is necessary, because the only way to learn what really matters to a character is to push them right to the edge and see what makes them want to hang on... or sometimes what could drive them to turn around and leap off the edge into empty space.

Then, after all that emotional involvement and the kind of self-torment that makes me wonder why I ever decided to write instead of taking up some other hobby, I finally get to the point where it's time to write "the end" and close the file. Pressing that X and watching all my precious hard work disappear off the screen... yeah, there's a little bit of pain in that as well. Then there's this odd feeling of numbness for a while before bits of my brain start to wake up again. I usually get a bit over-excited at this point, but not this time. This project was just too big and took too much out of me.

So, what happens next? I can't think about editing or rewriting yet even though it's definitely on the cards. I can't just take time off, though, because... well, I guess I'm just an addict. Besides, I still have another 25k to write for AprNoWriMo/April Fools. One story is over (until I feel ready to edit/rewrite) but another continues.

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