I have to say one of the most satisfying parts of being a novelist is writing The End. You've created a whole new story. Mostly, after finishing a book my first inclination is to put my feet up, grab a cup of tea, and veg out for awhile. (I'd love to include go for a ride, but until my back is healed the rest of the way, that marvelous option is out).
The euphoria lasts a few days, sometimes a week. Then it's time to take another look. Uh-oh. Here, for me, is where reality sets in. As I read through the work and get feedback from trusted colleagues, I begin to see the first writing of the book as what it is - clay to be molded into a finished product.
It's amazing how many iterations of a story I go through in it's development. My current, recently completed work, is just beginning the revision process (i.e. raw clay. Over four hundred manuscript pages of it.) Sometimes when I go back I love the characters but the pace is too slow or some pieces of the story just don't hang together right or are confusing to me as I re-read them. (This is one of my not infrequent 'What was I thinking?' moments). This time I'm happy with the pace and the story hangs together well (after over six months of research and outlining. Whew!) The problem with this story is in characterization.
I've read reams of how-to information for authors about characterization. What it all boils down to for me, really, is whether the characters are inside my head or not. I had a nagging feeling all through this story that my characters weren't coming alive for me. The background, the plot, the suspense were all there, but I wasn't really connected to my main character.
Sure enough, when I got some trusted feedback, it was all about ways to improve the characterization. I spent a week rethinking the story, which is a contemporary fantasy, and finally went with my gut. The story is really best suited to be a young adult fantasy. I ripped apart huge amounts of the background I'd put together on the main characters and reworked them as teenagers. All of a sudden I was inside the head of my main character (in part because she has so many of the same feelings I did at sixteen). It's amazing! Scenes primarily devoted to character development that I wasn't totally happy with before are now flowing at amazing speed.
I'm sure there's lots of ways to describe why the characterization is so improved, but to me it's simple. Now I love my characters. I understand them and I'm inside their heads and their hearts.
Hope everyone had a wonderful summer and is ready for a happy, fun-filled fall season!
All the best,