The Cap and Gown of the First Work


The friend I wrote about a couple weeks ago when I shared the poster-board and crayon method of scene writing, has made another milestone. First, she must have finished that pesky battle scene that was making her so nuts. Because this week she wrote and shared another milestone. I thought I’d take it and share the progression of thoughts with you guys. Anonymously, of course, for her.


Her letter…

Ok, so here’s the thing. I THINK I just finished my book. Does that
make sense?
I had planned on writing a few more scenes, but it feels like this is
the end. I’ve got the tears (mine and hopefully the readers’), the
emotion, the hope for survival. Will another scene ruin that? I think it will.
OK, I think I just convinced myself, but feel free to respond with
your thoughts.
So … I finished it! Now I really am crying!
Anonymous Writer


My reply…

Yes! Cry and whoop and jump and dance!
You have now become a writer.
A *real* writer. You finished a project. A whole book!
Might you eventually add another scene?
Maybe. Who knows. But savor this now. The first time only happens once.


So, why am I choosing to write about this today? Simple. It is a huge milestone. *Really huge.*

General numbers (made up but oft quoted) about writers go:

One in a 100 people want to write a book.

For every 100 people who want to write a book, one will start.

For every 100 who start, one will finish.

For every 100 who finish, one will be commercially published.

Anonymous just became one of a very small percentage of people on this earth. She should celebrate – dance, laugh, go out to dinner, run in circles barking. No, wait. That’s my dog. *grins*

But then I felt like running in circles when I finished my first book. And barking and wagging my tail too. I felt lighter than air, full of joy, as if angel wings were beating all around me. I sat on the couch for a moment, taking it all in. And I celebrated by, well, working some more. Which pattern of behavior became my reaction to milestones ever after.


As it turns out, that was really dumb, and the result of the stress I put myself under was dangerous to my health. It is long-lasting and very negative. So every time you pass a milestone, celebrate. Rest. Enjoy the moment. There are so few moments of true accomplishment in life. Remember to savor each.

No one is a writer until they finish a work, be it short story, article, or novel, just like no one is a bricklayer until they cap off that first wall. It takes accomplishment to don the cap and robe and cross the stage. Anonymous did it. She finished a book. She should celebrate.

Cheers, girl!

My question to the other writers here (are there any folk here who are not writers?)

How did you celebrate on that first big milestone? And any other memorable ones thereafter?




6 comments to The Cap and Gown of the First Work

  • When The Call came, the one telling me Tor was buying the book, I was on vacation at Edisto Beach with my family. While I was on the phone talking to my agent, my husband drove to the little grocery store and bought two bottles of cheap champagne (hey, it was Edisto – I was impressed they had ANY! *grin) with which we toasted the sale.

    And when the advance check came, I celebrated by putting it into a savings account. I know that sounds a little boring, but it still makes me so happy to see my chunk of money whenever I look at my account.

  • Beatriz

    (are there any folk here who are not writers?)

    Thanks, Faith. I’m going to wrestle with that question all night.

    While the internal debate rages, I’ll say that I celebrate every career milestone. Sometimes it’s a bubble bath and a chocolate bar, sometimes it’s a shiny new Ipod Classic, sometimes it’s a massage gifted to me by my fabulous friends.

    Regardless, each one is enjoyed, typically in some fashion that I find relaxing as it’s the best way I can acknowledge the hard work it has taken to get there.

  • Gee, Misty. *Saving?* what’s that????

    And Bea…yes to the relaxation. Also,, I meant *are they people here on this blog who are not writers?*
    There could be some reader fans…
    It could happen….

  • I don’t remember how I celebrated my first sale — I know that the celebration didn’t last long because I had to finish the freakin’ book. But finishing the book was way cool and seeing it in print — I actually got a call from the local bookstore telling me it was in and inviting me down to see it — was amazing.

    Congrats to your friend. I finished my book last week and am still enjoying the down time, even as I update my website, plan my next series and clean my office….

  • Stephanie Alexander

    Well there is at least one reader here. I normaly just read the blog, as although I’m facinated by the process of writing and love the end results I am not a writer.

    The milestones are very similar to those of a jeweller, (which is where all my creative energy goes these days) and first piece, first sale etc have all been celebrated with coffee, chocolate and that walking on air feeling. At least until reality and the next lot of deadlines hit…


  • David, you and I did pretty much the same thing — turn to the first deadline. I am now trying to learn how to smell the roses (or the Class 11 and 111 rivers) on the way. Getting better at it these days!

    And Stephanie…
    Uooooo! Sparkly things! My very favorites!
    Got a website???