Today I completed the first draft of my novel.
It has left me quite unsure about how to feel; in some ways it is a landmark that ought to be celebrated, but I also find myself conscious that there is still a lot of work to be done and in many ways I am only just beginning. To continue with an analogy I have already over-egged: the baby is born, but the job of parenthood is only just getting underway.
Over the course of writing the book, its characters have become more real to me and I will need to go back over the parts where I was still getting to know them to add depth that does their personalities justice. I need to sharpen the focus of the book so that it has a punchier beginning, a gripping start that draws readers in. I need to read and reread it to check for consistency, repetition, pacing, phrasing. I want to start on the sequel, mapping out what’s next in greater detail and making sure the first book introduces enough of the characters and concepts that the two feel connected without leaving unsatisfactory loose ends that confuse the narrative of the first. I need to edit and cut it down so that it has impact and feels dynamic but also add details that build richness and vibrance. It needs a title; I feel the pressure for each of those few words to somehow convey the sense of the whole, to carry the essence of the entire book in just a few syllables.
Now it is a complete entity, I am overwhelmed by its scale. Its 111,463 words are an intimidating forest that I could lose myself in indefinitely. I will need to carefully balance the importance of editing and revision with the need at some point to reach an endpoint, to decide it is as complete as I can make it and to have the courage to send it off, to seek representation, to find it an editor, a publisher, an audience. All of this is daunting, which will make it deeply tempting to hide in its depths indefinitely, for there will always be the scope for further tinkering.
For now, my first task is to read it through, to experience the physicality of forming the words in my mouth and hearing it aloud, to follow the story without being side-tracked and to enjoy sharing it with my children. I worry about how others will receive it, but my biggest fear at the moment is whether, after gestating it for so long, I will even like it myself.