Last night I finally finished the 13th draft of my novel. Now all I have to do is save it as such -- I give my working copy a different name than the drafts, and each draft is preceded by its number. The minute I save this one as a draft, my working copy becomes part of the next drafting process (if there is one). Officially, I'm not redrafting my novel anymore. Time to work on new things. But I am going to do an editorial pass to look for typos and wordiness, and to look at characterisation, motivation, and to add some non-plot related thinking, because an editor who looked at a partial of this current draft suggested these things needed attention, and I want to submit copy that is as good as I can get it.
There's something immensely relieving about finishing a draft, an excitement. For me, it builds as I can see the end in sight, and I'm more and more motivated to work on the project. But there's also something sad about finishing a draft, especially a final draft, because it's a goodbye to characters. Though, of course, if you're working on a series the way I am, that's not necessarily the case. We spoke about it today in the SuperNOVA novel writers' group -- the what-next syndrome. If you're writing a series, do you go on with the next book and hope the first will be picked up, or do you start an entirely new project? I think that answer depends on whether you are driven to do something in particular, or whether or not you're a fast writer. Perhaps also in how much faith you have in your project. If you're a slow writer you'd better keep going because if you do get a three-book contract, and they want to see where you're up to, it's nice to have something to show them. Nice not to be put on the spot, having six months to write your next book, and, horror upon horrors, you haven't even started!
For me, the choice is easy. I'm not ready to leave my characters. And in any case I've already done 140,000 words of the second book. I'm driven. I want to write the sequel. When I did NaNo, this was the book I was working on. I have two separate storylines that run through both books, and I chose the more difficult to write for NaNo. Trouble is that I've just reworked the ending of the first book, and I have a feeling that a lot of what I've written in NaNo will now be redundant. Oh, well. I've done it before.
When I first sent out book 1 (3rd draft stage), it was a far different book to what it is now. It weighed in at a mere 120,000 words. A publishing house commissioned a reader's report, and one of the things they commented on was the structure: that it was too linear. Okay, I thought. I was about 100,000 words into book 2 at that stage, and had incorporated a second storyline, which at that stage was absent from book 1. To me it was always part of the story, but I thought it was too-ambitious a project for a first-time writer. These days, I hope I'd have more courage, more foresight. Anyway, I knew I could make the book less linear by dragging that storyline back into book 1 and weaving it through the book. I usually write sequentially so this doesn't present too much of a challenge, and though tricky at times the rewrite was an immensely rewarding and enriching experience. Trouble was, when I looked at book 2, one of my major characters was now dead. And I do mean major characters. Now I had 100,000 words in serious need of a rewrite. Which happened. But now, I may have done it again. I'm circumspect about such things: all writing is a learning experience. And enjoyable. I like the fact that there have been many incarnations of my book. I can't imagine ever finishing a book and feeling that it didn't need rewriting. I know some people do this -- more so those who labour over every sentence along the way -- but it's not for me. I love the rewrite.
And am I happy with my new ending? Absolutely. Every draft I've looked at it and wondered what to do with it. It felt like a good ending, left the reader with the emotion I wanted them left with -- trouble was it was a little cliched. This time, because of changes I've made throughout the book in adding a new storyline, which really only minimally affects the first book but will become successively more important as each book goes on until it is the driving force behind the plot by the end of the third book. This new element really suggested a new ending for me. Out it popped as I was editing. Persistence -- that's what helped me find it. It's a long haul writing a novel, especially a big one, and you just have to be prepared to stay the distance. Believe me, the rewards (in terms of personal satisfaction) are worth it.