November 17, 2011

Done! How Do You Celebrate?

Rocks and shells spelling out "END" on a beach

I finished the first draft of another WIP (work in progress) on Monday.  Guess how I celebrated?  *cringes*  Uh, yeah…I did nothing.

Yes, it was too late to go out for a celebratory dinner.  And yes, I have a lot of editing to do.  But shouldn’t I have done something?  Sure, it’s not my first novel, but shouldn’t I have still taken the time to enjoy the sense of completion?

The closest I got to feeling good about finishing the story was re-reading the last scene, over and over.  I love my stories right after I finish them, despite their unedited imperfections.  I want to hug the happy endings right off the computer monitor.  I want to send them out to everyone I know and make others join me in my happy little bubble.

But I don’t…

…because I know the story needs work…

…and that knowledge dampens my joy.

Perfectionists have a hard time calling something done no matter the circumstances.  That issue also makes it hard for us to know when to celebrate an accomplishment.

Should we celebrate after we reach “The End”?  No, but there’s still editing.  And then there’s querying.  And submitting.  And more editing.  And then by the time the book is coming out and is really done, we’ll be too nervous about readers’ reactions to enjoy the experience.

Yes, I know I’m over-thinking this.  *smile*  But I don’t think I’m alone.

There’s a statistic tossed around that only 5% of those who claim they want to write a novel actually make the time to complete it.  And of those 5% who do finish a novel, what percentage goes on to finish a second, or third, or fourth novel?

I’ve never heard statistics for that question, yet I know I’ve heard about some writers who finish a story and endlessly edit or query that one book, never moving on to another one.  So when we cross that finish line on another story, we’ve smashed the odds on two fronts: finishing a novel and forcing ourselves to move forward.

In other words, finishing the first draft of a story—no matter how much editing it needs—is something to celebrate.  We’ve proven we can take an idea and turn it into characters, plot, dialogue, story arc, etc.  And when we complete a second or a third story, we’ve proven we’re not “one-hit wonders” who can’t duplicate our success.  So… *puts foot down* I’m going to figure out a way to celebrate this weekend.

What accomplishments do you celebrate?  How do you celebrate?  (Yes, I’m looking to poach ideas.)  Do you have a hard time congratulating yourself?  How do you react when you finish a first draft?  Have you finished multiple stories?  If yes, did that make you feel more “legit” as a writer?

Comments — What do you think?

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Sarah Pearson

I’ve finished four first drafts. I’ll celebrate when one of them is edited enough to be able to send to someone else to read 🙂

Jen J. Danna

First of all, congrats on finishing your draft, even if you didn’t celebrate. It’s always an accomplishment to finish a WIP, even if the experienced writer in us knows that’s simply the first step towards a polished manuscript.

Without a doubt, you’re not overthinking this (or if you are, I’m guilty as well… so I’m going to say you’re not! 😉 ). I’m also guilty of not celebrating when perhaps I should. My husband and I went out to dinner when I got my very first agent offer, but that’s been about it (I guess I’m waiting for my first contract to have an excuse to celebrate again?). And perhaps it’s because I’ve finished 6 or 7 novels that the glow has dulled a bit on finishing a first draft. But I definitely remember the feeling of accomplishment after finishing that first one!

Even if you don’t celebrate, give yourself some time to breathe (that let’s the WIP breathe too), and when you go back to it, you’re be fresh and ready to whip it into shape!

Shain Brown

When I completed my first draft I was all about celebrating. Since then I have decided celebrating will come in the form of finding an agent that loves my work as much as I do. So, for now I will continue to write, revise, edit, and repeat for as long as it takes. And I am okay with that because I love the process.

Julie Glover

I didn’t celebrate with my novel drafts. Now I feel cheated. I think I’m going to demand a dinner out, a spa day, or a limo ride for my achievements! 😉

I suppose I felt that my celebration would happen when there was actual cash coming through the door from my writing. My husband would definitely mark that moment with some hi-fives and fancy livin’.

When I do complete a major goal, I mostly just squee with excitement by myself in my writing nook. I guess that counts as celebratory.

Nancy. S. Thompson

The extent of my celebrating is just screaming & dancing around the room. But that’s okay, it’s a personal accomplishment only I completely understand & embrace. If I do manage to reproduce the process & finish the first draft of my second novel, perhaps I’ll take myself out for a drink!

Ava Jae

Oh boy, I’m guilty of not celebrating either, but I’ve made it a point to make sure I start. When I finally finish this WIP I’ll go out to dinner or bake or…something. I guess I need some ideas, too. Hmm.

Rachel Firasek

Congrats on finishing! I usually take a moment to read for pleasure when I finish a draft. I’ll devour a few books to help me forget everything I’ve written. 😉


I haven’t celebrated completing a book because it is sooo early in the process. I’m saving my celebrating for a sale. *sigh 😉

Brooklyn Ann

I always celebrate the completion of any draft. Usually with junk food, hard cider, and maybe dart games with friends. I give myself a couple days before the worrying and over-thinking get me. 🙂

Gene Lempp

In the movie “Misery”, when the character Paul Sheldon (James Caan) finishes his book, he takes a single cigarette off the top of the keyboard, lights it and sits back to enjoy it. That is celebration. Something simple. Something that you really enjoy. A moment of personal serenity.

For me it tends to be having one or two of my favorite beers (and note that I don’t drink anymore beyond rare occasions like this), getting to kick back and just play and relax with my girls, watching a movie I love for the fifth, or eighth or twentieth time.

Then. Back to work, because the real joy, at least for me, will be the day I have one in print. Or five. And retire from the day job to do this writer thing full time. Now that will be a celebration 🙂

Melinda Collins

I always celebrate completing the first draft…then I celebrate making it through the first, second, third – and so on – rounds of edits/rewrites. It helps to make the entire process fun and gives you a little added bonus for seeing it all the way through to the end (other than the bonus of having a polished manuscript on the shelf that’s query-ready).

On rare occasions (one being when I make through NaNo with well-over the 50,000 wordcount goal), the hubs and I will go out for a nice dinner so I can have a big slab of steak before diving into edits 🙂

Jennifer Tanner

Hello Jami!

I don’t celebrate, though I should. Anyone who writes knows how much work goes into a first draft. I usually treat myself to a good read. And of course, while I’m reading, I’m thinking about that first draft and how I can make it better, which makes me excited and a bit fearful. Writing is kind of like cooking. It takes a few attempts before you get it just right.

Dean K Miller
Dean K Miller

I’m actually celebrating the fact that I’ve set some work aside so I can concentrate on those that my strike true in my heart. Though difficult as it is to leave those others things alone, I am feeling a lot of freedom to do work on what I believe in without the distractions of multiple self-imposed deadlines.

Which means, I’ll be celebrating a submission send off soon, and hopefully, an acceptance celebration later!

Laura Pauling

I know this is sad but I right away I go over and to my master list of areas I know need major work or rewriting. Then when I have a clear idea of where to start with revising, I read a good book or watch a fun movie! But I usually don’t sit and take a break from it until after doing the major fixes! I know, pretty lame.

Marcy Kennedy

I think I may need to poach some celebration ideas too. I’m terrible at celebrating when I finish something. Attributing it to my perfectionism makes a lot of sense. I never really feel like something’s finished enough, and I’m always moving on to the next goal, the next project. Really enjoyed today’s post 🙂

Daniel Swensen (@surlymuse)

I celebrate by not thinking about it for awhile and doing whatever I want for a day or two. It doesn’t have to be anything special or expensive. Even a few hours of mindless movies is reward enough (since I tend to avoid them during long periods of creativity)

Allan Douglas
Allan Douglas

YES! Celebrating the victories (even small ones – and completing a manuscript is not a small one) helps keep us motivated and interested. My favorite small victory celebration is a bottle of root beer and a hand full of dark chocolate. Doesn’t have to be fancy, just something you enjoy only at special moments.

M.E. Anders, the Cult Slayer
M.E. Anders, the Cult Slayer

We perfectionists do have a tough time celebrating our artistic achievements, especially in their “infant stage.” We are already anticipating all the “growing up” our manuscripts need to do before they are prepared for the big, bad readership world of adulthood. 🙂


Hi Jami!

Congrats on meeting your goal! Nothing like typing those two words THE END. 🙂 But it never is because there’s always another idea, another story and more work to polish.
Like someone else mentioned, I like to read someone elses work so I can forget about mine for awhile…of course, there might be a dirty martini at the ready too.


Barbara Watson

I took a photo of my printed out, completed first draft and blogged about finishing that draft (photos included). My writer friends ooo-ed and ahhh-ed over it with me. =)

Teresa Robeson

I celebrate by getting some extra sleep and then not writing for a while. Yes, I’m a party animal. Hah!

Congratulations on finishing your WIP!

Sonia G Medeiros

Congrats! You should definitely celebrate each milestone. It doesn’t have to be that day but it should be something nice for you. Even if it’s a big hot fudge sundae. 😀


[…] Gold asks How Do You Celebrate? when you have finished writing the first draft of a book. Right now, I can only dare to dream that […]

Lisa Gail Green

I’m totally there with you!!! It is something to celebrate. In fact, celebrate each complete step on the way!! That makes the hard parts feel less insurmountable. CONGRATS! *blows horn* *throws confetti*

Angela Ackerman

Congrats on finishing! I always love the moment a first draft is done. 🙂 I celebrate by taking a week off–no revising, just reading and enjoying my non-writing life. 🙂

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

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