Done with the Draft: 5 Stages of Feelings

I woke up this morning having dreamt about my novel. Not about writing it, or publishing it, or anything like that. I dreamed about the story. The characters were in a new scene playing out in my head as I slept.

Such scenes have been my waking dream for the past seven months. Those dreams manifested into pages, pages which I finished on Monday, and set aside so I could approach the draft with fresh eyes before sending it to my editor. For the next few weeks, Please Give is done.


While I’ve shifted my focus to other things — books I’ve neglected, reading pieces for workshops, and working on a new short story, to name a few — it’s been difficult to keep Please Give in the eaves. I haven’t opened the draft, but I do have a document of notes I jot down, to be added when I lift my personal embargo for working on it.

This morning, the document stayed open much longer than a notes document should. I stopped myself when I realized I was writing a stream of dialogue while riding the escalator to the metro. I was doing what I’d been doing for the past several months — writing the book because my thoughts were crowded with how it should read. I put my notes away, and read a book instead. The second draft can wait. It’ll be there when I get back.

I knew it would be a shift to go back to a routine that didn’t include working on the novel. While not equivalent to grief, I found myself thinking of the experience in terms of the famous five stages. I see the time between a first full draft and the second draft as such:

The Five Stages of Post-Novel Draft Feels

Excitement — woo hoo, it’s done!

Anxiety — is it done?

Bargaining — I’ll write notes, but I won’t open the draft

Despair — it’ll never be done! I’ll never stop writing it!

Acceptance — it will be done. I’ll keep writing other things. It’ll be there when I get back.

These stages are fluid and can be felt at any given moment, returned to or jumped past depending on mood. I’ll sometimes run the gamut in the course of an hour. All are natural feelings to have when finishing any big project, especially one as personal as writing a story.

It’s important, though, to do one’s best to not stay fixed in the middle three. It’s hard, but it can be done. Write something new. Read something new. Do something new. If for no other reason, doing new things gives you new things to write about.