As we come to the end of 2013, some of the ladies now have finished first drafts of their WIPs from our McDaniel course. I was all set to join them. I had my schedule set – I was to finish writing the final scenes of the book on Saturday, December 28. I had my plan – each and every scene was planned out down to the beats. And I had momentum – each day that I sat down with my schedule and my planned scenes, I completed what I’d set out to accomplish.
Then at some point last week, I just stopped writing. To hell with the schedule and plan. My writing brain went on strike. After some days of disappointment and self-flagellation, I realized I’d forgotten to include a very important part of my own writing rhythm in my schedule. I had forgotten to include time to wallow in the end-of-first-draft blues. This is not to be confused with not knowing how to end the story, or fear of finishing (something I’ll address in a future post). I know because I’ve seen this before, in every manuscript I’ve written. When I’m closing in on the last twenty-five or so pages of a book, I need to take time to say goodbye to my beloved characters, and to mourn the end of this first phase of our relationship.
Of course this is not the end of my time with these characters. I’ll be in the world of Eileen, Maddie, and Sarah for at least the next few months, spending long hours and days and weeks in revisions. But that first rush of discovery, those early days of learning about these characters, their goals and motivations, and the ways they will act under pressure are almost behind me. It’s an important milestone, something akin to watching your kids graduate from high school. You know they will still need you, you will still have much to teach them, and you’ll develop a new and wonderful kind of relationship with them. But you still need time to mourn the passing of an era.
Compared to dealing with a child’s graduation (I think I measured mourning over my daughter’s graduation in years), the time I spend mourning the end of the first draft with my characters is brief. Already, I’m getting excited again about writing those final, all-important climax and resolution scenes. Less than a week after throwing my carefully planned schedule to the wayside, I’m ready to retrieve it, update it, and get back to the business of finishing the stories of my girls. I already have my files cued up to get back to the writing groove first thing tomorrow morning. But for tonight, for just this one last night, I’ll drink a glass of wine in honor of my beloved characters and wallow in the inevitable end of this first leg of our journey together. (And while I’m at it, I’ll wallow in the fact that the Ravens shut themselves out of the playoffs on Sunday. Oh well, at least I will probably watch a few less playoff games and have more time to work on revisions.)
So, fellow writers out there, do you ever wallow in the first draft blues? Do they come at the end of the journey with your characters or at some other point in the process? And have you found anything better than wine or chocolate to chase them away from your keyboard?