A wonderful thing happened at 2:15pm EST today...I typed the last words of the book!!! WOO HOO!
Finishing a book, especially the first draft, brings an array of emotions into play: elation, anticipation of more work/edits, happiness, pride, fear, depression, sadness, happiness, and back around again!
I've learned to let these feelings flow where they may. Stifling them only prevents moving to the next level: rewriting. All writers have their favorite/most hated parts of the process, but I enjoy rewriting. It's like sifting through treasures collected at the beach, figuring out what to polish and what to discard. Parts of this can be tedious, but in the end I enjoy this part.
I'm taking this afternoon and tomorrow off. Not looking at the manuscript. On Tuesday, I'll start going through it with a fine tooth comb, editing things such as:
- Layering in Setting. Sure, those scenes have the beautiful Savannah background in my head, but are they clear to the reader?
- Removing those "um" words. You know the ones. In everyday speech, it's "um" that we say more often than we realize. In fiction, it's words like "that," "just," "really," "very," and more. These aren't bad words in themselves, but like the "um" of a nervous public speaker, overdoing them can take the reader out of the story.
- Correcting my forgetfulness. Was my character from Boston on page 1, but from Miami on page 200? Side character names and features are my weakness. Highlighting those spots in green as I write them helps me correct them easily. It's not uncommon to see "her boss, whatever his name is" written in and highlighted, and I can find out the name on the 2nd draft.
- Adding in any research tidbits. Nora Roberts claims she writes/researches simultaneously. I will occasionally swing over and do some research, but on some items I'll wait until the 2nd draft to make the scene fill out more. A simple "research this" note in green highlight reminds me to do some brief Google inquiries. Any research needed from books or human beings, I'll try tackling in the first draft.
After these steps are done, it's best to let it sit for at least a few days, preferably a week or more. Then go back through and polish up word choices, make sure it flows smoothly, do one last printout/edit, and then the book is complete!