I finished the first draft of The Second Realm on Monday. Well, actually, by the time I finished it was the small hours of Tuesday morning, but as far as I'm concerned it's still Monday until you go to sleep. After the better part of three years working on this story, the end of the drafting phase has hit me rather hard.
That's not to say that there isn't a lot more to do - editing, polishing, publishing, re-editing for the collected editions, preparing for print etc. - but now, at least, the whole story exists on (digital) paper. Every scene of it is now stored somewhere besides in my head, pinned down in words.
And I felt rather out of sorts all day yesterday as a result. It didn't help that I didn't sleep well - the problem with finishing a story at two in the morning is that you can't really jump around and shout a lot to work off the rush of joy and relief, so I went to bed buzzing and got only fractured sleep at all.
I woke up, though, feeling like I'd actually spent the night at a wild party (I assure you that, once upon a time, my life was interesting enough that I can still remember what that feels like). My eyes were gritty, my head ached, I had a couple of mild dizzy spells. A substantial breakfast, rehydration and a shower seemed to be the important parts of the cure, as well.
Tired as I was, I spent most of the day in a cloud. It was the first day in almost three years where I didn't have some part of The Second Realm either to write or to feel guilty about not writing. There was stuff I could have usefully done, but not Second Realm stuff.
I still feel weird today, not in a medical sense, but in a things-aren't-as-they-usually-are sense. I feel like my life is actually significantly different now, like I'm a different person to the author who drafted The Second Realm. Perhaps that's an effect of working on something for so long; previously, the longest I'd spent on any one project was about six months, and I did a lot of other things as well in that time.
Maybe it'll pass with time, as I sink back into the story for editing and stuff, and I'm sure I'll be reevaluating this moment in a few months when I publish the last episode (October 18th, all being well). I'm going to save any kind of retrospective analysis of the project until then, because it hardly seems fair to act as if it's over for me while anyone reading the thing (and thank you all, by the way, for making last week the best week yet for downloads) still has months to go.
Still, there is a sense in which I'm different now. The voices of Rel, Pevan, Taslin and the rest will start to fade towards the back of my mind as other characters and stories come forward. They'll stay with me, I hope, but I also hope they won't clamour for my attention quite as noisily as they have done for the last three years.
I owe big thanks, of course, to a lot of people for helping me in various ways with The Second Realm (particularly Lynne Hunt, my long-suffering and indomitable beta reader), but again, I'll wait until the project really is complete to do proper acknowledgements.