Today I accomplished a mammoth achievement – I finished the last chapter on the third and final draft of my novel. Early in the year, just as an experiment, I started re-writing the first chapter from a new character’s point of view. The manuscript – which until now was relegated to the bottom drawer as a great achievement but lost cause, suddenly came back to life. As I wrote I found I was able to put flesh to the bones of my original idea, and as the characters developed deeper I chiseled away the previous hard edges and clumsiness in my writing. To describe the hours of work that has gone into this over the many years is impossible. Those that write know the pain of perseverance. They are also lucky enough to know the joy that comes from creating. The exhilaration as a plot line suddenly comes together almost on its own accord or as sentences flow from within. There is that point of realisation when the words all of a sudden fall onto the page and you have captured the very essence of that which you are trying to describe.
After all this time, to type ‘The End’ comes with inevitable mixed emotions. There is of course the rush of finally realising it is done. Then as I am sure with most, is the pang of insecurity. This was the last time I would write this – did I get it right? Did I rush? Did I give it enough time? Are my characters as real to readers as they are to me? Did I splice and dice enough? Did I give enough at the right time? Did I hold back enough or was I as subtle as a train-smash?
It is time for these doubts, like the manuscript to be laid to rest for a while. When the time is right I will retrieve the prized possession and with fresh eyes read to satisfy my curious mind. This respite is essential – when you know the story inside out, when each curve and fold of character is so close can play each scene in your mind before reading – you are too attached. You need the distance of time to be able to edit with even a little impartiality.
I saved the draft in every possible location and closed my laptop. As the finality sunk in, I felt relieved. I felt content. I know I have given this my best effort. Nine long months ago when I discovered I was pregnant I imposed the obvious deadline on myself. At thirty-six weeks, I have to say the nightly insomnia helped in getting me over the line. I never before knew the hours between two and six am could be so productive. I thank my baby for letting me achieve this goal and for riding the path with me. Of course it could not have been achieved without the support of my partner. The endless days spent in front of a laptop are hard for a loved one to bear I am sure. Not to mention the anxiety, reading of passages, questions of plot line and their second job as general sounding board. The encouragement and at times the essential discouragement (you’ve done enough, give it a break) have helped me get through with a sense of balance intact.
As the end of my pregnancy draws near I am thinking of all the lasts; the last day of work, the last massage, the last trip to the movie theatre, the last haircut and pedicure, the last uninterrupted dinner at a nice restaurant. I know these things are not the last forever but instead, like the novel, just resting for a while. And they will be replaced with firsts; the first meeting, the first cuddle, the first smile, the first step.