So you finished Writing a Book. Now what?

On Saturday, I posted a very brief thing saying that I’d finished writing the Pen boys.  There wasn’t much else beyond that, and so I thought it might be fun to delve into what comes next.  At the moment, I’m still in the lull of post-finishing, and so I’m not doing any of these things yet, but give me a few days to a week, and I’ll plunge headlong into the following.  And, as always, my writing process may look very, very different from yours, so this is not a golden rule to follow.

Firstly, what is a post-finishing lull?  It means that I’ve spent the last four months writing 188k words, and I’m tired.  I know, it’s just writing.  (God, I hate that phrase, just writing.)  It shouldn’t be tiring.  But think about it like a workout.  You are constantly exercising your brain, coming up with a brand new world, an entire cast of characters, a plot, and conflict, all while trying to connect those things and keep them coherent and consistent.  It takes a lot out of you mentally.  And sometimes emotionally, too.  (Honestly, sometimes physically.  I have dance parties and pace a lot.)  Even when I’m not physically writing, I’m mentally writing.  Having conversations with myself in the car, asking “what would X do?” in different situations, and trying to work out problems that have arisen.  The actual writing, too, is wild, and particularly ends of books.  You’ve all read a book before, and you know what the end feels like.  There is usually a heck of a lot going on.  Everyone is doing something, and probably stressed out about it, and there’s just a lot of chaos happening.  Imagine writing that.  It feels like you’re in chaos.  It feels like you can’t breathe, or you have to accomplish this dangerous task, or you might be about to die.  And then, when all of that is done, and you, as the reader, start to relax, we, as the writer, have to keep going.  Falling action is the literal worst.  After the climax, I’m so beat from building everything up and tearing it all apart that writing a conclusion is at the bottom of my list.  I just want to sit on the sofa and watch some TV for a while.  Usually, this is why I procrastinate finishing novels.  (For Pen boys, I procrastinated because I love them dearly, and I didn’t want to let them go yet, but that’s a whole other problem to tackle.)  When, finally, I did finish Pen boys, I’d been working on the last three chapters for an entire day, it was 9:30PM at night, and I had to be up at 6AM the next morning, so I closed my laptop and went to bed.  Right now, two days later, I’m not even going to look at their folder, never mind open those last few chapters.  I just want to read things for a little while.  Bask in the fact that I just finished writing a novel.

And when I’m done doing that?  I’m still not going to work on the second draft.  I’ll probably briefly edit the last three chapters, just for grammar and little additions/deletions here or there, but I’m done with Pen boys for a few months at least.  Both of my CPs are still reading it, and I’d like to wait for their completed edits before I dive into the second draft.

Second drafts, too, are a tricky thing.  They mean something different every time.  For Pen boys, I’m going to be editing the first draft to create a second one.  I will not be starting over, and I will be keeping most of what is there.  It’s currently at 188k, which is just absurd for a YA novel, so I have a lot of cutting to do.  My goal is to not cut any scenes, but instead to get rid of extraneous language that doesn’t add anything to the overall story.  My goal is to get it to at least 100k, though really, 90k is more realistic for publishing, but we’ll see what happens.  This, for me, is usually not the case.

For Mason’s second draft, I won’t be taking anything from the first one.  I’ll probably reread it just to get the gist of things again, but Mason will be an entirely new thing.  This is for two reasons.  One, because the second draft is going to actually be an entirely new novel.  It starts at a different time, and ends long before the current one starts.  Two, even if I was still starting at the same place, I would write it again and not keep anything.  Mason’s first draft was a place I needed to be, but not a place he needs to end up.  There are a lot of things wrong with that novel, and I didn’t write it the way I should have, so I’m going to give him the space he deserves in a brand new draft.

For Ronan, it’s never the same.  The first time I rewrote it, I started over completely from scratch.  And I mean I changed the world, the characters, and the plot.  Irizedd was still a thing, as were dragons, but Ronan got a complete overhaul, and the conflict shifted.  The second time, I worked off of the previous draft, but still wrote a new one.  I kept most of it intact, but changed a few plot points around, adjusted the language to where I was then in my writing, and fixed a few errors.  The third time, I really only edited basic things.  The fourth time, I started over again, and didn’t even refer back to any of the previous drafts.  The next time (the fifth time, good grief), I’ll be doing this again, but like before, it will be a complete overhaul.  The plot is way different, and the whole story itself is going to be reshaped.  I’m very excited.

And then there’s Alex.  His is one of my favorite kinds of second drafts.  Almost everything will stay the same, but I’ll be adding a lot to it.  There were several issues that I needed to address, things that weren’t fleshed out enough, and characters that needed more support.  I’ll be taking the first draft and expanding on it, making it bigger and better and way badder (shut up).

The weirdest part is, Alex’s second draft will happen before Pen boys’s does.  Whenever I finish a novel, and after very, very minor edits have been done (by minor, I mean really just reading it a second time and checking for grammatical errors), I usually don’t want to play in it again for a while.  Thus, I usually turn to something else.

So I finished Writing a Book.  What now?  Now, I’ll read a few YA novels and take my time with them.  I’ll probably reread Alex and start working on his second draft little by little.  I’ll hang out on Tumblr, watch a few movies and TV shows that I’ve been putting off, probably abandon Pinterest until the writing mood strikes me again, practica yoga more, and really just live a normal person’s life for a little bit.  At some point, I’ll actually write a post-Pen boys blog to talk about how I’m feeling about the novel as a whole.  This week, I’m hoping to write about using tarot cards while writing.  But for right now, I’m just going to relax.  I did it.  I finished it, and that’s good enough for me.

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