The Aftermath of The Completed Novel

It finally happened. I finally finished my novel! That’s right. On Sunday, just before the Super Bowl, I wrapped up the last sentence of the last chapter of “The Magician: Book One of The Rogue Portal Series”. It’s complete! Victory ice cream was had. (And then I witnessed a whole different kind of ending for my beloved Hawks, but that’s not the point).

I was thrilled beyond anything I’ve ever felt. After 260 pages and 69,693 words it was time to send my manuscript to Kinko’s, have them bind it in spirals for me, and go pick it up!

And that’s when I realized several things. The first thing I realized was how insanely attached I was to this stack of paper. I felt like I was picking up a child from the hospital or something. I held it for several minutes on the ride back home. How was it so big? So heavy? How had I written all of that?

The second thing I realized was that I really should have printed it single-sided instead of double, because I could have carried my editing notes onto the back of the pages.

And then I arrived at my final realization – it wasn’t over. Not by a long shot. Not even close.

As I thumbed through the manuscript, the dawning truth became brutally clear.

This was just the beginning.

The high of completing a novel is outstanding, and if you complete one you should enjoy it. Embrace the joy. Hold your manuscript close to you. Cry if you want to. It’s all acceptable.

But the aftermath of the completed novel is, as my friend Shanan Winters so eloquently described in a recent blog post, like a hangover. Or at least what they describe hangovers to be. Everything hurts your eyes. You feel slightly nauseated. Your head is one more throbbing drumbeat away from exploding.

Yes, the moment you pick up the red pen is the part where the blinding smack of reality tells you “You’re not done yet!”

Right now, my novel is akin to the drunk uncle you really don’t want at the Christmas dinner, but felt obligated to invite. Clothes disheveled, reeks, can’t carry on a conversation, can barely complete a sentence – that one. (I don’t have one of those, but I’ve heard stories.) But editing is going to transform my novel into a dashing gentlemen, a walking book of etiquette, the envy of all the women, the business partner every man wants – yes, my novel is about to become…Bond. James Bond.

Okay maybe not. But that’s the level of transformation that takes place when you edit. And that’s why, even though it’s the most grueling, exhausting, mind-numbing, headache-inducing thing you’ll likely ever do (except for maybe giving birth – haven’t tried it yet, I don’t know), it’s completely and totally worth it.

Because at the end of it you’ll be so proud of your novel and what it has become.

As though the Universe had set my path before me, I ran across this amazing article yesterday by Holly Lisle, who is no stranger to editing novels. I’ve never read anything of hers, but she has written and published over 20 books. Regardless of what’s within those pages, her advice on how to edit your manuscript in one pass is absolutely outstanding, and I have a feeling she saved me weeks to months of editing. I’m using her format to complete my editing, and I’m almost done with my first scene. Which just so happens to be my first chapter.

The editing process is often referred to as “editing hell” by writers, and rightly so. But rather than see it as a place of eternal punishment, although it can feel that way, I prefer to think of it as the refining fire. The fire that tests your manuscript, makes it reveal its true contents, and allows you to squelch out all the impurities.

I am so excited to begin this process, and can’t wait to share the finished product with you. 🙂

If you haven’t read the prequel to “The Magician”, now would be a great time to pick up “Balance”, the short story that precedes it. You could read The Rogue Portal series without reading the short, but it would be way cooler and make more sense if you did. 😀

Have you ever edited a full-length novel? What was your experience like?

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