Finishing a novel is never easy. Authors have poured almost as much ink on the subject of finishing as they have on their own fiction. We make jokes about procrastination and how painful the process can be. Chuck Wendig wrote an amusing post about how to finish a novel, using more profanity than I thought humanly possible.
On Wednesday, I completed the first draft of Clara’s Return. This finishing felt different than others, though. I’ve never finished writing about a character before.
When I first began Clara, it was with the expectation that there would be only one novel. However, as the last chapter loomed closer, it became clear that Clara’s story wasn’t over. There was more for her to do and learn. She still had plenty of issues to work out and there were other plot lines that needed tying off. I finished the novel with a clear indication that there would be a sequel. I tucked Clara into the back of my mind while I moved on to write Willows of Fate (which I had so much fun writing that I’ve decided to make a series with that character).
After Willows, I decided it was time to close off Clara’s story. For once, the title was easy to pick. I made a rough outline and launched myself onto the waters. It was difficult. There were days when I could barely write while other days came where I hit my word count goal with no problem. There were days when I didn’t write at all. As I drew closer to the end of the novel, it became more difficult.
I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Why was I almost feeling physical pain? Then, it hit me.
Once again, the ending I had picked out wasn’t going to work. For anyone who has read Clara, you know that the title character is a stubborn, opinionated woman who does what she wants to do and if you don’t like it, you can lump it. She isn’t the most easily likable person to ever appear on a page. And she didn’t like the ending I had chosen. It didn’t fit. The ending that did fit…
Well, I don’t want to give it away.
The point is, once I accepted that ending and committed to it, the writing flowed. I couldn’t have been dragged away from the computer by a horde of zombies. My new physical activity tracker kept beeping at me that I had been sitting for too long but I ignored it like it was a whiny bitch. Supper was late that night. It was time to finish Clara’s story.
I wrote the last sentence and closed my writing program. I got up and wandered into the kitchen to start supper. Something felt odd. I returned to my writing space to jot a few thoughts on the whiteboard. Things to keep in mind for the editing process. Staring at the whiteboard, it hit me.
Clara’s story was finished.
A feeling like relief washed over me. That feeling after a good workout? It was like that. As if I had accomplished something strenuous. And, finishing a novel is strenuous in a mental and emotional sense.
On the wake of relief came a feeling of disconnectedness. A sort of “what now?” And I thought, “Well, there are other projects.” I have a short story series that is going to debut on Channillo. I need to start thinking about the next book in The Land of Sun and Stone Series. A friend asked me to take part in a story swap in April, so I have to prep for that. Lots to do!
And yet there’s a hole. A feeling of emptiness. Clara’s voice was silent after hearing it for years. Her story was over; she had no reason to speak any longer.
It’s not uncommon for authors to feel a small bit of sorrow or depression after finishing a novel. It happens. First, there’s a sense of accomplishment, sometimes euphoria (I was euphoric after finishing Willows of Fate). But after that can come sadness, triggered either by self-doubt or, in my case, simply because it ended. Readers don’t like for a good book to end. Well, writers don’t like to stop writing, which is why someone once said that books aren’t finished. They are abandoned.
Finishing a novel is hard. However, in many ways, moving on from that novel is even harder.