A weird thing happened to me the other day.
I finished the 2nd draft of Memory. I changed a surprising amount from the original (from one entire setting to another character’s physical appearance). So, really, it was a huge job and a lot of work. Upon finishing it, I felt like the book was far stronger than it had been–definitely a lot more unique and more finely paced.
But what I didn’t feel was any sense of achievement from finishing the 2nd draft.
It’s strange. I’ve tweeted about it. Every time I finished War of Exiles, I felt like a king. When I finished the first draft of Memory, I was also pleased. But, for whatever reason, finishing an edit of it (even this quickly) did absolutely nothing for me. There was no hurrah–no feeling of triumph.
And maybe that’s because of what a friend suggested: “That’s probably because it will never feel complete to you.” Yeah. Maybe. As a writer, I definitely fall into the trap of always wanting to pick at my work. In fact, upon finishing the 2nd draft, I immediately went back and tweaked the ending. There is always the certainty that I can find something to improve in my work, and the possibility that, to me, it will never be done and I’ll just have to publish what feels like a rough draft of it. And that’s a kind of horrible, depressing idea.
But that’s probably not the problem. Because I can work on Memory enough that it at least feels ready for publication (I’m fully aware of elements of it that still need work).
So I have to ration that finishing a draft doesn’t feel like an accomplishment anymore because… it isn’t? That sounds grim and bitter, but maybe it shouldn’t. Maybe finishing a single draft just… shouldn’t feel like an incredible achievement. At least, maybe it shouldn’t feel like a beer-chugging, let’s party kind of achievement.
Because, after a while, you pass the point as a writer when finishing a draft is an incredible thing you never thought you’d do. It’s still awesome to get a new story off the ground or finish writing one you’ve been planning for a long time, but after doing all of that, finishing another draft becomes a kind of silent step–a bridge between the greater achievements of “Finished my 1st draft!” and “Started submitting my book!”
And so maybe the achievement here isn’t the finishing of the draft… but reaching the point where I don’t care about having finished the draft? Maybe the victory here is having written enough that I’m not impressed by small victories.
That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t feel anything, but it also doesn’t mean its time for shots. It means I should, instead, smirk tiredly at having gotten to this point. It means I should, of course, roll right into that second edit and on toward “Started submitting my book!” without stopping for beer-chugging and partying.