Bear with me, this might get strange.
So, as a writer and a reader, I think a lot about imaginary people, and I think a lot about story, and what aspects appeal to humans, and how, when things are taken too far, maybe people sometimes expect real life to be like stories, which isn’t impossible, but unlikely. And I think sometimes about these characters that go through so much and finally achieve their huge, massive goal—and then what? What drives them forward? Do they get their happily ever after? Or does the story go on? Or rather, do they begin a different story?
Happily ever after is widely accepted as a myth these days, because we know that time and life doesn’t stand still. You can’t stay at the top forever. Problems arise, solutions must be sought. Stories must be lived.
Anyway, I think about that a lot: what are the characters’ lives like after the story ends?
And then I hit my own milestone/climax-resolution on Thursday. I finished the first draft of GHOST CITY, the first novel I’ve started and finished since 2010 when I posted the last chapter of The Poppet and the Lune (unless you count my massive rewrite of a novel that came before TPaL). I felt like I should have been more exuberant, more over the moon for my accomplishment. I had to check to make sure I wasn’t suppressing the vulnerable state of joy in favor of the safety of doubt (as I do). I wasn’t. I was excited, but no more excited than I’d been the days before. I’m excited for the book! But the story goes on, well after the first draft, as any writer knows. And I’m more excited to move forward onto the next stage of crafting this story than I am excited that I finished one stage of it.
It’s a little bit like me getting fired. I’m far more excited and enthusiastic about being free and living my life as I’ve dreamed, than I am excited to be free of my terrible day job.
That’s not to say that when I do finish a final, polished, ready-for-submission draft that I won’t be exploding with joy, but that’s a slightly larger milestone to meet.
Relief is more the feeling I had Thursday. I was relieved that I made it through the whole thing. I was relieved that I had it in me, another story, another novel. I was relieved that my decisions about the novel, whether they were the “right” ones or not, were good decisions. I was relieved that I could do it. I can do it. I can write novels, and more than just the ones I’ve already written.
I have a feeling I will feel that same relief with the first draft of every novel I will ever write. And I’m okay with that.