The 5 Stages of a Finished First Draft

Fatigue: you’ve probably been running on caffeine and adrenaline to finish that last chunk of the book, writing longer and harder than at any other time. Now it’s done you realise you’re knackered; you’ve burned yourself out and the chemicals propping your brain up have started to drain away. Warn colleagues and family that all you want to do is curl up and sleep for a weekend so anyone bringing their problems your way needs to use words of one syllable and be prepared to dodge flying coffee mugs.


Elation: Holy crap, you’ve actually finished the book! Sure there’s editing to do but the hardest part is over – the bulk of the words are on the page and it’s time to sink into a whisky or four and celebrate getting that monkey off your back. You’ve got a burst of energy – it’s time to fix that shelf or work in the garden, say nice things to your family and try to remember what being human is like.


Illness: Remember those weeks of marinating your brain in caffeine, adrenaline and panic? Weeks when you were too frantic to be ill? Well I’m sorry, but your body was storing all those germs from people on the tube and plague-ridden toddlers, waiting for its chance. Time to fill the bath with lemsip and stay there for a week.


Depression: Often this’ll come hand in hand with the illness. You’ve got nothing to do and feeling adrift without the book to focus on – the last thing you can summon the strength for is starting a new book and you need a break from the current one. You’re tired and ill and dammit there is a lot of editing waiting for you. The answer is probably chocolate and brainless movies or a box set. Both are excellent at quietening the (by now ingrained) guilt you feel at not working.


Hope: Finally you start revising. There’s a long way to go, but you’ve shaken the flu and can face doing some work. At some point you laugh at a character’s joke or find yourself having no changed anything for five pages because you got swept up in the story. You realise it’s not terrible, that there’s some good to be found in that first draft and the critics may not publicly crucify you. You realise that maybe, just maybe, you can do this again. Which is good, because there’s always another deadline.

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