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What It Feels Like to Finish Writing a Novel

Photo by averie woodard on Unsplash

Every novelist or aspiring novelist longs for that moment when the last line of the story is written. Whether it takes weeks, months, or years to compose that final sentence, the achievement could startle the author. It startles me every time.

On July 3rd, I finished composing my next novel. A combination of pride, liberation, and disorientation hit me all at once. Pride naturally arises from meeting any goal, especially a big one. My sense of liberation came from the release of the constant daily voice that commanded me to work on the novel. I also felt suddenly at liberty to begin developing my next story idea.

The disorientation that I experience after typing out those final lines is the strongest sensation. It happens because writing a novel is very distracting work. Day in and day out, an author’s mind continually mulls over plot choices and character motivations. Research must be pondered, and details selected. Although an author generally appears to be doing nothing, much energy remains secretly directed at prying open the doors of the subconscious. The author constantly listens for the Muse, like waiting for a phone to ring.

While focused on the unseen messages of the creative process, the daily tedium of existence recedes. I don’t fully realize how tuned out I’ve been until the novel is drafted. Reaching the end feels like that moment when you’re in a meeting at work and someone asks you a question and you realize that you have not been paying the slightest attention.

It’s the realization that the world has been going about its business while I frolicked with my imagination. Like a bear looking up from a patch of berries after eating them all, the world rushes back in with all of its untidy glory. I don’t recoil from it, but I’m definitely plotting my next vacation from it.

A sense of loss accompanies the disorientation as well. I no longer have the firm directive to work on the novel. I’m unmoored from an endeavor that has consumed my days. It’s like getting settled into a job that you expect to last forever, but then one day security walks you out the door after you hastily box up your potted plant and pictures of family and pets.

As a novelist, I’m most comfortable when writing a novel. When I finish one, I welcome the opportunity to plan a new a novel because I don’t like the thought of not having a novel to write.

Even though months of editing and rewriting and proofreading will ensue to ready the work for publication, nothing compares to the actual drafting of the complete manuscript. No matter how much I have to rework it, the task will not compare in difficulty to actually making it. A pumpkin pie can be made in a matter of hours, but a whole summer is needed to grow the pumpkin.

I’ve entered the harvest season with my newest work. I’ve plucked it from the vine and must now consider how to make it delicious for others to consume.

For those in the midst of writing their novels, keep going! No matter how much life gets in the way, keep the project handy so that you can work on it whenever the chance arises. Even if you only have less than an hour and only manage to write three paragraphs, get them written. Every word draws you closer to the finish.