Ten minutes ago I composed a brief email message to my literary agent, with an attachment around 1.2 megabytes in size. Then I hit "send" on fifteen months minus five days of work. I've been keeping a low profile on this blog because I've just worked for nine consecutive days on what I hope is the final draft of "Rule 34": if my agent doesn't raise any red flags over it, it should land on my editors' desks in something between 24 hours and two months.
Feeling dead, now. Working for nine solid days will do that to you.
Unfortunately, sometimes it's necessary. Novels are complex assemblages, and when they run to over 100,000 words (this one ran to 108,000 — making it about three pages longer than "Halting State") there are a lot of intricate cross-linkages and continuity glitches to fix. Explanations for bits of the action may get written up twice in different chapters if I forget about having done it the first time; and plot threads get dropped by accident, especially if the writing process is stretched across more than a year. The only way to get it right is to plough through the entire thing non-stop, intensively re-familiarizing yourself with the book so that you can spot the little inconsistencies between page 50 and page 120.
... And then it's gone.
Ever finished a job that, give or take vacations, sick time, and minor interruptions, took you more than a year of solid day-job working time? If not, it's a really strange sensation. Most human occupations are process-oriented, ongoing grappling with a continuous requirement for activity that never goes away — they may break down into sub-tasks, but the tasks in question seldom extend across more than a few hours or a handful of days. Stuff that happens once, in a continous process lasting months, is very atypical and more usually experienced as parts of life distinct from work: pregnancy, or higher education, or a terminal illness. And having it just end feels somehow wrong.