After two long years, I finally finished the second draft of the novel. When I typed the final words, I honestly didn't feel a thing. No excitement, no relief, no sense of accomplishment, nothing.
I made it Facebook official, but without a single extraneous word (truly shocking for someone like me), or even an exclamation point. When I told Matt the news, I did the Olympic gymnast pose, but only with my arms. My posture was still pretty slumpy. I poured sparkling grape juice into pretty glasses and made a toast - "May my novels be many and their drafts few" - but we didn't clink them together because we were too busy shooting aliens.
I lay away last night wondering what I was going to do before work. I don't know why I was wondering, because I've only been planning it for two years: set the manuscript aside for three months, go on a reading binge, play fantasy RPGs, practice my DM skills, all in the pursuit of becoming a better storyteller. After the three months are up, I'll get back to revisions with fresh eyes.
Today I woke up, took my shower, and while I was waiting for the tea to steep and the toaster to toast, I still felt mostly numb, but I think there was a little bit of sadness in there too. The numbness I attribute to a realistic perspective on novel writing, particularly first novel writing, that borders on jadedness; the draft is done but the novel itself is far from finished. When it is finished, it's most likely fate statistically speaking is to gather dust on my hard drive, never to be seen by the general public. I'm not quite ridiculous enough to mourn the fate of a novel I haven't even finished yet, but as I told Matt a few nights ago: I can pretend I'm only writing this as a loving tribute to the world he's created, the plot he's crafted, and the characters we've developed, but I also really, really want to sell this thing for actual money-golds. If the latter doesn't happen, I'm gonna be disappointed.
I'm probably gonna be disappointed.
There are a lot of reasons for the undercurrent of sadness. I've started a handful of posts about them over the last six months, but haven't brought myself to finishing them. Suffice to say that the latter half of 2014 has been rough for me, so I'll stick with one reason, the one most relevant to this post.
The only thing that kept me from laying in bed until work every day is no longer there. Or rather, it's finally here, and that's the problem. The thing that I lived to painfully scribble into existence already exists. I can't sit at my desk with my tea and what little determination I have to do the writer's equivalent of brick-laying every day. As long as I got my brick laid, the day was worth it.
I'd love nothing more than to dive right back in today, since it's been over a year since I've looked at some of these scenes. I hate drafting but I love revising. I love, love, love the idea of having a mostly complete sculpture I need only pinch and prod for a few more months to make it beautiful. The only thing stopping me is a nagging sense that without proper distance from the full picture, I'll get carried away and end up breaking more than I fix.
There's a reason most writers recommend working on something else during this vital period of percolation. I really wish I had another idea kicking around in my head but I don't. I'm not the kind of writer who's head is bursting at the seams with story seeds clamoring for attention. I'm hoping semi-weekly tabletop sessions will be enough of a substitute.
Those are supposed to start Wednesday. The entirety of my plans take up maybe half a page of a small notebook. Now that I have the mental resources to spare, I find that I still don't have the enthusiasm I was hoping would materialize now that the novel isn't priority one. DMing is similar to writing, but it nevertheless requires a unique set of skills. It's something I'm new to, and I actually don't like trying new things because it means I have to endure sucking at them. It doesn't help that Matt, Mr. I've Been a DM Since I Was 12, is one of the two players.
Actually it's very helpful because it saves me a lot of time looking up rules, but the pressure. The pressure. It's like a toddler showing off their somersaults to a five-time gold medalist, minus the indestructible toddler confidence.
While I lack both preparedness and enthusiasm, I do still have my daily ration of determination. I also have lots of new pens and notebooks. Those three things carried me through Draft Two; they can help me survive Wednesday.