Here’s what you do next:
You smile. Maybe cry a little, either from relief or joy, or maybe both. You don’t scream even though you want to, because it’s 1:00 in the morning and you don’t want your neighbors to think you’re getting murdered.
You tell the only other person who’s crazy enough to be awake at this hour on a Sunday night (Monday morning?).
You export your document and save it to the cloud because your laptop had a near-death experience twenty minutes ago as you were writing the last three lines and you nearly broke down in tears. (Thank goodness for autosave). You don’t want to repeat that.
You tweet about the book.
And you go to bed.
Later, you have another brutal and excruciating battle with your laptop, this time as you’re trying to reformat your 165-page manuscript so that it looks like a human wrote it, not a sleep-deprived gremlin fueled purely by Goldfish crackers and anxiety.
You attempt to order a printed and bound copy of your manuscript from Staples. Your laptop makes it quite clear what it thinks of that idea.
Eventually, you succeed.
The next day, you go to Staples to pick up your book. The clerk flips through it to check for any printing errors. “Is this a play?” he asks.
Your brain chooses that moment to bluescreen, because over the last year you’ve completely forgotten how to talk to real people about anything, let alone your own writing.
“Actually, it’s a novel I wrote,” you finally say.
You realize how cliche that sounds and add, “It’s not very good yet, but I finally finished it, so I thought I’d get it printed for fun.” You’re not sure if that sounds any better.
You pay for your book and your post-it notes and leave before you become the official cryptid of your local Staples. So did you see that girl with the book? She must be writing something weird.
You take your newly-printed book home with you and sit at your dining room table and read through the pages. You spot typos. You ignore them, because right now, what matters is that this is your book. You wrote this. You’ve been trying to write it for years, and you’ve been frustrated about it, you’ve hated it, you’ve wanted to give up. But you didn’t. And now it’s here, in your hands. Imperfect, but here.
You look at your book for a long time.
And then, finally–
You start planning the next one.