The book is done. The revisions are done--at least for now. Input has been received and considered and in many cases, implemented. The complicated, intense, playful, demanding creative process of creating a novel is at an end. It's out of my hands, and off to those of my agent.
And how do I feel? I want it back.
One of the reasons I love writing fiction is that I love getting to know my characters. I love observing the way they live, the way they interact with others, the way they meet the challenges their creator (me!) throws at them. I'm enchanted by a wily child, a brave woman, a gentle man, a quirky dog, an unusual community. Once they're firmly established in my mind--necessary if I'm to write about them--I hate it when they leave me.
This moment makes me appreciate something the marvelous Sue Grafton says about her longtime protagonist, Kinsey Millhone. Grafton calls herself Kinsey's biographer. Of course, that's not literally true, but I understand what she means. As the creators of these characters, we're responsible for everything about them, and yet--when the magical process works--they become so real that's hard to part with them when the book is finished.
It always feels to me as if their story will go on, but I will be left out! Surely this is one of the reasons series are so popular--one story ends, but the characters remain with us. (Unless, of course, as with George R. R. Martin's massive series, most of them get eliminated.) Certainly I wait impatiently for every new installment of Kinsey Millhone's life story, and that means Grafton is doing her job spectacularly well.
All of this notwithstanding, I'm a professional novelist. I need to go on to the next thing. It may work for the literary novelists to spend five years, or even ten, on a book, but that's not my career. My editor and my agent and, I hope, my readers expect a new book every year or so. It's a wrench now, a difficult transition, but I'll accomplish it. I'll let this one go out of my hands, and I'll set about falling in love all over again with new characters, a new setting, a new story. It's the grown-up thing to do.
Sigh. 'Bye, book! It's been a real joy.