I am "done." But what does that mean? This book, in its current form, is for my eyes only. No one, but me, will ever read these pages. It is, despite that (first) final sentence and sentiment, still very much a work-in-progress. It is not done by any stretch of the imagination.
But the only way to manage a novel for me is in phases. And each phase has a finish line. This is the first.
Here is what "done" means for me at this stage:
For two or so months now, I have submerged myself into the murky depths of this story. I have, whether I felt like it or not, entered the lives of these characters and made them struggle and suffer. I have watched them make mistakes, love each other, hate each other. I have written scenes that were just dreadful and left them wriggling there on the page like severed worms. I have written descriptions that weren't quite right but would do, for now. I have lost control of the story and then reined it back in. I have explored and scavenged and imagined and then re-imagined these characters' lives. I spent a week writing the most tantric climax in the history of climaxes...seriously, it went on and on and on...wondering the entire time if anyone would ever, ever believe it. And then, on the other side of that storm, I struggled to make the ending not feel like a rushed afterthought but rather a culmination -- of everything that came before it -- as a good ending should be.
Writing first drafts is thrilling and frustrating, exhilarating and exhausting. One day I feel brilliant, and the next day I feel like a fraud. The result is usually an odd combination of pitch-perfect prose and unbelievable plot twists. Character who are as vivid and real as my own family members until they open their mouths and all the cliches spew out. There are amazing insights and themes bubbling to the surface and dull, unoriginal thoughts as well. It is terrible and wonderful and not even close to done.
I know that for the next nine months or so I will turn this draft upside down and inside out. Characters will change or disappear entirely. Sentences will be dissected and entire paragraphs excised.
But the story has a (first) beginning a (first) middle and a (first) end. The first draft is "done."
And now I nap.