The Post-Drafting Blues

First, some great news: I finished the first draft of the Trial on Thursday! I took the day off from the Day Job and spent the afternoon with some local writer friends writing at a café. Around two o'clock, I reached "THE END."

Check it out!
 

 

A 4K day to finish my third novel on September 18, 2014.

After finishing the Trial, my third novel since I started writing two years ago, I took a moment to reflect on how finishing a draft feels. 

Before I started writing, I assumed finishing a novel would feel amazing. And it does. Sorta. For about thirty seconds. Maybe because this was the first novel I completed outside of NaNoWriMo, but it was especially apparent this time just now not good finishing feels.

Let me explain.

Finishing the first draft of a novel is a huge accomplishment. So, if you've recently finished a first draft, I applaud you! So many people never make it to THE END, so you deserve to celebrate. But, as I'm sure the writers among you know, writing the first draft is, in so many ways, just the beginning. And so you stare at that first draft knowing the hard work is only just begun. *sigh*

This is just one part of the Post-Drafting Blues.

For me, finishing a draft leaves me feeling anxious and directionless. I actually feel pretty crappy for at least a day or two. Why? I have a few theories.

1 - Finishing a first draft is a solitary victory. You can't share a first draft with the world (well, I suppose you can, but--at least for me--first drafts are messy). I find a lot more excitement in finishing a revision probably for that reason: I can send it off to my CPs for critique! Finishing a first draft means I still have a lot of work on my hands and nothing to really "show" for my small success.

2 - Drafting can be all consuming. When I'm in the throes of a new project, it occupies a lot of my mind. Most of it, in fact. I spend hours and hours every day working on my project, so when it's done? All that thought space and energy has no where to go. I think this is most of what leaves me feeling so directionless. 

3 - You miss your characters. I find I get rather attached to the characters I spend so many hours developing and getting to know. Having to say goodbye after the drafting is done can be sad. Sure, I'll see them all again when I go back to revise, but while in the midst of the Post-Drafting Blues, that isn't terribly reassuring. 

4 - You just survived a serious battle against the blank page...and no one threw you a parade. You just created something out of nothing more than your imagination, blood, sweat, and tears. Where once there was nothing but a blank page, a blank Scrivener file, now there's a whole world filled with complex characters. YOU did that. That's AMAZING. You should be so proud. But while you've waged through all your self doubts and warred against sticky plot holes, it's possible no one noticed. No one baked you a cake or threw you a parade. It sucks, but that's the reality of the beast.

5 - Finishing a book means you have no more distraction from the query trenches. This may not be a factor every time you draft, but for me this time, it was. Drafting the Trial was a wonderful (very much needed) distraction from querying A STOLEN THRONE. If you've never queried a novel before, just know that it basically consists of small bursts of excitement (Yay! Someone requested a full!), fairly frequent small bummers (boo-another form rejection), and lots and lots and LOTS of waiting around with nothing happening. Plus, by some weird cosmic alignment thingy, those requests and rejections tend to come in cycles. I usually get a whole bunch of news at once, then silence. Three months (almost to the day) into this query cycle, and I've found myself very firmly rooted in that "silence" stage of querying. Drafting the Trial was a great way to keep distracted and productive amid all that thumb twirling. But once I finished drafting? All that silence-induced stress came flooding back.

So, what's a writer to do?

Get back to work! (Or, you know, if you're a saner person than I, take a much deserved break and then get back to work.)

Even though I told myself to take a break, I'm apparently incapable of doing so. (Who's surprised? Are you surprised? I'm not.) I just can't not write. I love it too much. I crave it. But since I want to give the Trial plenty of time to cool off before I dive back in to revise it, I had to find something else to do. So between critiquing a piece for one of my CPs (waves to David!) and enjoying some for-fun reading (just finished HEIR OF FIRE by Sarah J Maas, which was excellent), I've started prepping a new novel. The new project, tentatively titled CRACKED, is a YA paranormal romance...and that's all I'm saying for now.

You tell me: what emotions do you go through when you finish a first draft? Do you also suffer from the Post-Drafting Blues? What do you do to get over it?

-Isabel