It's a good feeling, of course, like the light at the end of the tunnel. But the light is just a pinprick in the darkness, a reminder that the true end, when I hit the publish button, is still a long, long way off.
At 113,567 words, this is, by far, the longest book in the series so far. That's forty-two chapters I now have to comb through and revise. While others are frantically tapping their fingertips numb trying to reach their NaNoWriMo goals, I'll be slugging through a miserable November of editing, editing, and more editing, (and filling out my wife's immigration visa forms, which is just about as much fun), so that I can hopefully have it available for all of you to buy as Christmas presents for your nerd friends, and for your grandmothers who you secretly hate.
Some writers claim that revision is their favorite part of the writing process. That's when they "really bring the story to life". I like to call those people "fucking liars". There is little so soul-crushingly frustrating as having a completely written book and an audience that has been waiting for over a year to read it, but not being able to sell it to them just yet.
But alas, it's a necessary evil. Self-publishing is as serious a business as you treat it. One of the reasons the Caverns & Creatures series has achieved the meager level of success that is has so far is that I hold the quality of my storytelling and comedy to as high a standard as I can. The only versions of my work available to the eyes of my adoring fans are the versions I publish after the painstaking process of revision.
So how do you know when it's time to kick your little baby bird out of the nest, so that it may spread its wings and fly?
My process begins with a reread of the completed manuscript, chapter by chapter, from the beginning. I'm looking for misspelled words, turns of phrase that could be finessed, jokes that could use a little more punch, long stretches of dialogue which need more action, that sort of thing.
It's a constant flipping back and forth between thinking "Thank you, muse, for inspiring the most brilliant combination of keystrokes in the history of the written word." and "Holy shit. Was I having an aneurysm while typing this with my dick?"
When I'm satisfied that I've worked all the magic at my disposal into a chapter, I send it off to my editor, and soon-to-be-fellow-self-published-author, Joan, who will inevitably find a heap of problems with it. Saint that she is, she's already read the first draft of every chapter I've written, and therefore is in a position to advise me not only on technical issues, but on issues such as foreshadowing or consistency, which can only be addressed by someone familiar with the story as a whole.
From there, it's a matter of taking in all of Joan's advice, and deciding on how much of it, after giving it a lot of thought, I agree with, or am even capable of addressing. We don't always see eye to eye, and I don't always follow her advice. But I've had fans compliment me both on segments inspired by Joan pushing me to try a little harder as well as segments I've kept as they were against Joan's advice to cut them.
This goes on for a while, back and forth, back and forth, until I feel like it's as good as I'm going to get it. Leonardo da Vinci said "Art is never finished, only abandoned." There's no way to tell when a story is truly finished. There's always more tweaking you can do, but if you chip too much away, you might risk losing some of the charm of the original piece.
It's not fun work, but it's worth it in the end to know that I'm contributing yet another masterpiece to the world's collection of great literature. Centuries from now, long after my mortal remains have given themselves back to the earth, when university students are writing their dissertations on the profundity of my work, my spirit will rest easy knowing I put in that extra little bit of effort.