Rambly one today, folks. I thought up this one a while ago, but I had other blog posts in the queue and I didn’t manage to get it written while I was still having Feelings about it, so I’m not sure how compelling it will be to read now, but here we go.
In case you haven’t guessed, this is another personal one, folks. But it is writing-related as well, I promise.
For those following along, I have (with varying levels of success) been attempting to get a few books off my hard drive and into the wild. I’ve ended up releasing two within about a month of each other, because of how all the technical stuff lined up. So I was in the middle of it all for quite a while.
You know, I love it when I’m able to say that I’m ‘finished’ with something. When I can buy or consume the celebratory chocolate, and when I can officially stick a flag in the peak and say “this has been conquered, and from now I shall work on new projects.” It’s a pretty great feeling, to be able to say that something is just behind me.
But … you know, it doesn’t happen often. I’ve published two books in the past month, and I’m still working on them.
A long, long time ago now, I wrote ‘The Ferryman’s Apprentice’, and I got it to a point where I was happy with it, and then I started to post it. A few months back, I pushed “post” on the last chapter. Done, right?
Well … I’ve still got to finish putting out all of the hard copies. Which means I still need to do a lot of formatting, and order the covers, and all that sort of thing. So I’m not really done.
What about ‘The King’s City’? That’s not a posted story, surely now you’ve published that, it’s done! Or will be, once you’ve finally got those print copy purchase links?
Well, it’s the first in a series, so now I’ve got to return to that world and write the second one.
The short stories, I could call finished, but I’m keeping a project of compiling them on the back burner, maybe if I get enough of them on the blog, I could put together an anthology or something.
I remember, quite clearly, finishing my book launch for ‘The King’s City’ and wishing that it felt like a milestone. That was supposed to be the last thing that I did for that book, after which all the links would be up, and everything would be finished. But I didn’t feel like it was done. I ate the celebratory chocolate, because c’mon, it’s chocolate, but I didn’t feel like I deserved it. I still had to get the links up, and I was desperately trying to figure out a way to get people to interact with the print books at the stream, so that at least people could feel like they’d done something. And of course, as I said in the stream, I still have to write book two.
Every time ‘The Ferryman’s Apprentice’ goes out, I feel like I should celebrate the release. But they’re not really finished, either. Maybe they will feel like they’re ‘finished’ when Part Four goes out. Or maybe there’s just going to be something else in the works.
A lot of people warned me about this, when I was starting out writing. I was never the sort of person who celebrated first drafts, though a lot of authors had their ‘end of draft’ rituals – something to drink, some chocolate, a nice dinner out, whatever it was. Not that I ever thought they were petty or wrong for doing that – if that’s what made them happy, I was more than happy for them to do that. But I didn’t think it was for me. I had finished quite a lot of first drafts, I thought, and drafts in general. Which was true, I had. I believed I’d prefer to celebrate the final draft, the finished story, the publication date. After all, a first draft was just a milestone, it wasn’t really the end.
The more I write, though, the more I wish I’d gotten into that habit, because I think it’s important to find the milestones and celebrate them. I think it’s important to get into the mindset of being glad to have finished something. Because if there’s one thing writing is good at, it’s moving the goalposts. Sure, you finished the draft, but there are always the edits. Sure, you finished the book, but now there’s the formatting, and the publishing process (self- or trad, either way, it’s a process). Sure, you published the thing, but now there’s the marketing, any events around the launch, and the ongoing plan. Maybe a sequel …
I should try and be better about celebrating the milestones, but it’s hard when nothing feels like a finish line. Celebrations seem forced, like I’m artificially chunking up the task, and assigning importance myself. I know it isn’t logical – that’s all anybody ever does – but I can’t bring myself to just enjoy an achievement like that. It feels dishonest to me. Maybe if I got into the habit earlier, I’d be better at it now.
Or maybe I’m just going to save money on chocolate.
Either way, those other writers are onto something. Find the victories where you can, celebrate whatever milestones you can manage. Buy yourself the chocolate for any excuse your heart desires. Because there’s always something else on the list, and if you don’t let yourself celebrate until you’ve ‘finished’, then you’ll never celebrate at all.
As for me, I’ll just make sure that when I do find one of those elusive finish lines? The celebration will be big.