How does it feel to finish writing a book?
Last week, after three months of writing, I finished a beautiful book called Without a Mother's Love by Amanda Wright, due out in Spring 2016.
Amanda's story touched me very deeply when she first approached me in April and I was convinced her heartbreaking true story would be worthy of a commercial deal - and fortunately, I was right!
John Blake Books were so moved by Amanda's story they snapped up the UK rights to her story and so, the stage was set for a new project to move forward.
As with all my writing projects, I started by arranging face-to-face interviews with Amanda which we managed at the end of August. This was followed by two weeks of research, transcribing and chapter organisation. Then it was down the writing proper.
Apart from a week's holiday in the October half term, I wrote fairly solidly until last week, sending chapters to Amanda for revisions and edits as I went along, usually three at a time. Then once it was all completed, I put the chapters together, added in the extra bits and pieces like the Acknowledgments page, Contents, Dedications and so on and that was that.
Of course, that is not the end of the process before publication - we still have to get through the structural edit, copy edit and legal read - but as far as the bulk of the writing goes, the work has been created, the memoir is written, the book finished. Ta da!
So how does it feel?
Well, I'd like to say that I feel elated, amazing and on top of the world but the truth is I feel utterly exhausted and strangely empty. I have gone through the whole of Amanda's life on the page and I have loved every step of the way, though writing it all down has been as much a journey for me, the ghostwriter, as it has for Amanda herself.
I never lived it for real, that is true, but I feel like I have! When you have put yourself into someone else's head and thrown yourself into their life, it is an odd moment to suddenly have to stop, and return to your own world. It is like a diver coming up from the sea, you have to do it slowly and take it easy to prevent decompression illness or 'the bends'.
So usually, in these few weeks after finishing a book, I take myself on a lot of long walks, clearing a space in my head for my own thoughts and feelings. There is almost always a physical clearing out too, whether it is a complete reorganisation of my office, a wardrobe cull or some kind of redecoration.
I have to reclaim myself and that takes time and sometimes, a new haircut! It's hard to say how long this takes - sometimes only a couple of weeks, maybe a month or two - but it is a vital part of my creative process, allowing me to refresh myself and my mind.
Once I have shaken off that feeling of being 'wrung out', empty of words, thoughts and feelings, I am ready to start all over again, give myself entirely over to a new world, a new life and a new book. It's a helluva ride but I wouldn't change it for the world!