Letting Go of the Final Draft

I feel sad when I finish the last touches on a manuscript I’ve been editing and have to say goodbye to the characters, especially after spending months being so involved in their lives and every move.

But I can’t imagine what it’s like for an author, who has usually spent years writing, rewriting, revising, and obsessing over their story.

It must be like seeing your adult child off at the airport as they head to some foreign land to chase their dreams, but instead it is a final relinquishing of control of a beloved manuscript — the last goodbye before it disappears into the hungry maw of the public.

A very sad massive high indeed.

The preface of David Copperfield by Charles Dickens is a lovely description of this moment of letting go.

PREFACE TO 1850 EDITION

I do not find it easy to get sufficiently far away from this Book, in the first sensations of having finished it, to refer to it with the composure which this formal heading would seem to require. My interest in it, is so recent and strong; and my mind is so divided between pleasure and regret—pleasure in the achievement of a long design, regret in the separation from many companions—that I am in danger of wearying the reader whom I love, with personal confidences, and private emotions.

Besides which, all that I could say of the Story, to any purpose, I have endeavoured to say in it.

It would concern the reader little, perhaps, to know, how sorrowfully the pen is laid down at the close of a two-years’ imaginative task; or how an Author feels as if he were dismissing some portion of himself into the shadowy world, when a crowd of the creatures of his brain are going from him for ever. Yet, I have nothing else to tell; unless, indeed, I were to confess (which might be of less moment still) that no one can ever believe this Narrative, in the reading, more than I have believed it in the writing.

By the way, David Copperfield is in the public domain, which means you can download it for free (legally) in multiple formats from Project Gutenberg. YOU LUCKY HUMAN!

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