On Friday, May 9, 2014, I finished the last chapter of Fearless. 167,000+ words, two-and-a-half years, and countless dreams, tears, and laughs later, it’s done. The first draft, that is. Which means it’s really just the beginning. Now, the manuscript (holy $%*&, I can really call it a manuscript!) can go to beta, then to editing, then to revision. Then, it goes to beta, editing, and revision again. I’m not sure how many passes this story will require to make it the best it can be before I die. For the moment, though, I think I’m going to take a deep breath, sit back, and let Ross and Amber rest a while. They deserve it.
I always get this happy-sad feeling when I finish a story, especially a big one. Fearless was my 2011 NaNoWriMo project, and it went through plenty of ups and downs before I typed those final words. I rather love that part of writing, though: the adventure of the first draft. It’s often imprecise and messy, but it’s full of such raw, untamed emotion! Revision requires analysis and skill, and it’s a necessary part of building a better story. It’s nothing like that rush of first draft, though. Not for me, anyway.
As an online reader, my experience is with works in progress. Friends and fellow storycrafters will post scenes or chapters as they’re made, and there’s a real sense of accomplishment to seeing a story come together organically in that way. But so many times, potential authors lose steam in their stories, and plots and characters are simply abandoned. It’s trite to say, but that makes me sad.
A story that is given time to grow and evolve becomes like a thing alive. When we let a story fall by the wayside, its world dies. I completely sympathize with writers or artists who start a project but then quickly realize this won’t work or that isn’t what it should be. But I really can’t understand artists who can devote huge chunks of their lives – like, years! – to a project, only to let it wither and fade when the going gets too rough or, heaven forfend, they move on to newer, shinier worlds.
I had a writer friend who told me, “Always finish the story, even if the ending is crap. You can always go back and fix it. But a finished story, no matter how crappy it is, is a real story, with a beginning, middle, and end. If you can finish, that puts you above at least half of all the other writers out there.” Now, I don’t know if his numbers were accurate, but his words have always stuck with me. And, every time I’ve started a story, I’ve wanted to make it “real”. Yes, some of the endings are crap. Some of the endings I wrote simply to get to the ending, so I wouldn’t have to look at that world any longer. But for every story I’ve written since I got that advice oh-so many years ago, I’ve given an ending. And, honestly, I think it has made me a better writer.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m due for a break…at least until the next story comes calling.
What do you do when you finish a story? Do you celebrate or put your nose back to the grindstone? And, would you like to join me for a celebratory beer? (Sure, I’ll buy!)
Yay! Congrats! That’s a great accomplishment Mayumi. I’m definitely going to have a celebratory beer with you, well, I’ll be with you in spirit anyway! That’s good advice about always writing an ending, I think leaving things unfinished can be very demoralising. I need to go back and finish lots of writing that I previously started…
Thanks, Vanessa! I had a great Pale Ale to celebrate for myself yesterday, but I’m always up for raising a glass with a friend. 🙂
Congratulations! You give me hope that one day I’ll be able to say the same!
I had the problem of not wanting a story to finish, so I haven’t finished any of my stories at all. For one of them, I do have an ending already in my head, but no beginning or middle. But when I do finish one, I’ll let you know my ritual!
By the way, do you still scribble stories or ideas in a notebook? Isn’t it satisfying to fill up a notebook, then flip through it to see the ink covering all those pages? 🙂
Thanks! I’m sure you’ll do, too. You probably just need your “right” story.
It is strange to have a story finished. And, not just a chapter but the whole thing with arcs and whatnot. It’s like closing a door on those characters and their lives. Even though I have a more expansive universe and plan laid out for all of them, it still feels rather like saying goodbye.
I do still scribble! Haven’t done sketches in a while, but I do keep my sketchbook handy. I looked through an old one the other day, in fact. Laughed at a lot of the notes and story snippets there…but found a few good little pieces, too.
f you’ve got a camera, take a short video of yourself flipping through the notebook. It makes a pretty picture all going by so quickly! 🙂
Congrats Mayumi! This is definitely time to rejoice. Take a fews days or weeks and do all those things you neglected to get to during the final push to finish. Then move on to another project for a bit and give this a breather. 😉 I’m not a beer drinker, but I’ll raise a virtual grasshopper to toast your accomplishment. 🙂
Thanks, Kourtney! 🙂
I’m usually pretty good about not neglecting my day-to-day duties for my writing, but it does certainly feel great to know that, whenever I do pick up Fearless again, I’ll be moving on to the next step. 🙂
Your virtual share is as welcome as a real one. Thanks again!
Congratulations on completing that first draft! I’ve done it a few times, and you should definitely take the time to celebrate. There is, of course, still a way to go if you want to publish the story. But many people never complete that first draft, so you’re already in rarefied territory! As Kourtney said, take some time to catch up on anything you’ve let slip during the writing and then spend some time with other ideas that have been simmering in your mind. Maybe Marshall and friends would like more of your time…. 😉
Thanks, JM! I don’t know if I’ll ever seek to publish Fearless traditionally, but I definitely want to make it as strong a story as it can be. I’m looking forward to going back to it in a few months’ time.
I’ve got another story approaching its end, too, but it doesn’t have the same emotional ties to me that this one did. As for Marshall, I do find it difficult to shut him up…. 😉
Count me in for the celebratory beer! Finishing any draft is a huge accomplishment, even those rough drafts. Those are the ones when I feel the most vulnerable, because I don’t yet know if my idea will be good enough to turn into a story.
Yes, I think your friend is right about how rare it is to finish a story. So, take some time and treat yourself to a job well done.
I feel like this one is a real story. Whether I could ever sell it is another matter. But, it has a beginning, middle, and end, as rollercoaster-y as the plot sometimes gets, and I’m happy to have helped it across that finish line.
Sometimes, we can tell early enough in a process when it’s not worth it to pull a story or characters through the paces, and I suppose “finishing” in that case is better left to the side. I try to concentrate effort on those stories that resonate somehow with me. Maybe that should be an addendum to my friend’s advice. 🙂
LOL. You are better than me. I usually have weeks of random life tasks to catch up on–like cleaning, vacuuming, waxing. 😉
Actually, you’re better than me, because we only vacuum when company comes by, which is about twice a year! And my Brazilian days are long gone. 😉
And so a fantastic story draws to a close. If anything, I’d say I owe you a beer for sticking with it to the end. Lord knows I am pretty bad at it (really need to find footing for Lone Wolf Association again…grrr)
I admit, I’ve only completely finished one multi-part story so far, to include revisions, edits and correcting some face-palm inducing errors, but I know how that wash of relief feels when that last period is pressed and it is saved into the digital eternity. But through it all, the pen usually never stops going in some form or another. And I can see yours does as well, only now it is free completely. And I look forward to seeing where it goes next.
And I can’t thank you enough for being one of the few people who saw the story all the way through with me to its (first) ending. 🙂 I’ve just started glancing through it for a deeper edit, but I’ve decided to take my time. I do still have at least one other story to write, after all.
As for where I’m going next, I’m not sure. I’m thinking “Finding Mister Wright” could use a deeper look….