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I've been working on the first draft of The White Sail's Shaking for more than a year and a half, beginning in November 2010. I had hoped to finish in May, when it would have been exactly eighteen months; but what with studying and finals and the like, that plan failed. This June, however, I set myself a goal of two pages a day to see the story finished by the 30th, and I reached said goal two days early. Which is to say that the very rough first draft is now complete.
Naturally, this is exciting. It's always exciting to finish a novel. When I ended The Soldier's Cross, I immediately ran off to call Jenny and let her know (a bad idea, it turned out, since it was Sunday and she had been taking a nap). I don't remember what I did when I finished Wordcrafter, but then, I had to rewrite the ending so many times that it hardly counted. But each time I have been excited - excited to see some of my efforts pay off, excited to be able to move on to the next stage.
There's some bitter mixed in with the sweet, though. To say I spent a year and a half writing this novel is also to say that I spent a year and a half rubbing elbows with these characters, and, for the most part, only these characters. Now their story - or this part of their story - is over. Oh, I still have edits to do and earlier chapters to write, the ones that got skipped on the first go-round, but it isn't the same. As Tip just remarked in a different context: "There's no going back."
So for the next couple days I'll be in a state of elation, which will then degenerate into a few days of numbness, which will progress to panic as I wonder, what am I going to do now? Technically I know what I'm going to do now: edits, and queries, and more edits, and eventually beginning Tempus Regina. But whenever I finish a story, even knowing where I'm going next, I feel a little frozen. I just spent a year and a half with this cast; how am I going to fall in love with another one? What if the next story doesn't develop? What if at some point I finish a novel and there isn't one to come after it?
I am, you see, quite the paranoid writer, and I suppose that many writers have similar fears. I haven't yet found a way to counteract them, besides telling myself that I'm being ridiculous (which I am), but I do know one thing: there's no going back, but as long as the Lord desires it, one can always go forward. There are too many stories to tell, and new characters to love, and new places to experience, for us to stay in a single place for too long. We must always be discovering.
Because we're writers, and that's what we do.