Finishing a First Draft vs. Finishing a Revision: What’s Better?

On Monday, December 3rd, 2019, I wrote the final sentence in the first draft of a new novel (the sentence was Karolina took her time reaching the office and no, it wasn’t the last sentence of the book. I’d been struggling with separation anxiety regarding the characters for a little over a week before actually finishing it, so the moment I’ve finished typing it didn’t feel as victorious as it could’ve been. Scratch that, as it should’ve been.

But on Thursday, December 5th, 2019, I edited the epilogue of the Second Werewolf Novel, and copied it into my editor’s and beta readers’ folders to send the chapter off with a (tiny, internal) bang. I actually cried a little while editing the final three chapters, and the epilogue made me smile so hard over the choices the characters have made, so it was an awesome experience.

The difference between the two ‘endings’ got me thinkinghow did it come to pass that one of the things I hate the most about this writing thing, revision, could make me feel as good as it did this timeand one of the things I love the most, the actual completion of a story/novel, could make me so miserable?

Was it because the two novels are completely differentone with low(er) emotional stakes, and one with higher; one with an ensemble cast, the other with two MCs I focus on; one a werewolf historic romance with a het main ship, one a more recently located retrofuturistic murder mystery with a lesbian main ship? (Etc etc.) If it were, well, how could I ever be able to revise the ‘hard’ one, and write the sequel(s) I’m planning to do? At what point does ‘too close to home’ get way too close, for a writer?

I’ve got two other theories. (This all feels so new, so theories abound.) The first is that the end of a revision (probably the first of two in total, if we’re lucky) is way more final than the end of the first draft. It means something—if nothing else, it means that I now have something to say when the random reader (I was lucky to meet a few through our library) asks how the sequel is doing. No, I still don’t have any dates to share whatsoever. (It depends on a whole lotta things other than my revision laziness.) But the ball is in the other team’s court now—the betas and my editor. Whatever the outcome, and no matter how long it takes from this point forward, the satisfaction of having finished something is real. (Because, among other things, I hate self-editing. Sure, I’ll do it as much as the next person—but I will whine the hell out of it in the process.)

The second theory is that it’s been over nine months (yup, one could’ve had a babyI wrote the better part of the Third Werewolf Novel instead!) since I’ve last written the characters of the novel I’ve finished editing, and I’m quite fond of them. Could it be that I was just happy to play around in their heads again? With all their quirks and their stupidity and their wonderfulness and their desires? That (it’s not really a spoiler) I got to be happy for them all over again? (While my beloved MCs from the above mentioned first draft will maybe catch a break later in the sequel… Blame it on knowing it’s a series from the get go, unlike the werewolf novels.) Was the emotion in question part of being a bit fed up with a novel I’ve put my life aside for a whole month to write, too?

I guess I’ll never know. Or, better yet, I’ll try to collect more data as I go on to finish another novel (the Third WN) and edit Johnny’s Girls, the novel which, at it’s end, brought these weird negative emotions. Since, as noted above, all of this is so new, it feels like every new novel’s ending—both the draft’s end and the revision finale—is a new, glorious opportunity to learn something, not only about my writing, but about writing in general. Every new story feels like an experiment, even though, as I plow further through more and more novels, I’m already using things I’ve learned whilst writing the past few novels.

I’m not that sure writing ever start feeling old, either. Maybe it does, for people who publish tennish novels a year and who’ve been at it for a few decades at least—but since I’m really not that fast, I have a hunch I have at least a few years more until I feel like I’ve learned something tangible, something finite.

Or, in writing, maybe nothing really ever is finite. Not even finishing a novel, and letting it go.

Either way, I’m completely down to finding out the truth about it, even if I need to embark on a few emotional rollercoasters to do it.



Photo by Alex Woods on Unsplash.
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