Thursday, March 18, 2010
Last night at 12:04 (okay, technically this morning) I wrote the two sweetest words in the writer's lexicon: The End. And yes, we really do write them at the end of a manuscript. They are extraordinarily important because they mean that the story has come to a satisfactory conclusion, the characters are happy where they are, and the low, steady hum of anxiety that his been living in the center of your chest for months is miraculously gone.
A lot of people comment that many books start out strong and then sort of fall apart toward the middle. If the writer is anything like me, that is because by the time they've gotten to the end, they've gone over the beginning about a gajillion times. It is impossible for me to continue with the manuscript if I've added something to the story arc or a character has changed. I have to go back and fix it before I move on.
Yesterday was an awesome day. All afternoon, I knew I had only one more scene to write. One. I knew what it was, I'd already seen the movie in my head. The only thing left to do was get it down in the laptop and I'd get to type The End. And then a funny thing happened on the way to those magic words. Can you say procrastination? All evening I messed around on Twitter. I joined a chat. I checked my Amazon ranking. I even went to Target. All to avoid sitting down and getting to the point where I could write The End.
And then I figured out why. Because I didn't want it to end. I think you have to really love your characters (and be in love with some of them) and I realized that I was going to miss hanging out with them. Finally, after all the Tweeps and all the people in my house went to bed, I sat down and finished it in less than an hour.
But of course, it's not really the end. Anne Lamott in her awesome writing book Bird by Bird has a great chapter on finishing a book.
I think my students believe that when a published writer finishes something, she crosses the last t, pushes back from the desk, yawns, stretches, and smiles. I do not know anyone who has ever done this, not even once.
What happens with this The End is that it is now in the hands of brutally honest but kind critique partners who will read it and tell me all of the places where it stinks. Then I will fix it some more and send it to my teen beta readers (hi Devon, Portia and Liesel) who will hopefully tell me where it stinks. Then I will fix it some more. And then it will go to the fabulous Agent E who will read it and tell me where it stinks. And I will fix it some more. That last part might happen more than once. And then hopefully, there will be an editor out there who reads it, sees something great inside the mess that is the story and buys it. And then they will read it again and tell me where it stinks. See a pattern yet?
The good news in all of this is that I get to spend more time with my characters and see them grow even more in the hands of people who aren't as close to them as I am. I may get to write another snogging scene, which is probably the most fun you can legally have on paper. And then, some day many many months from now, there will be a real The End for this story.
Unless, of course, I get to write book 2...
Stats on the (sadly, still untitled) new book:
Start date: November 17th, 2009
End date: March 17th, 2010 - (I just noticed that they're both the 17th!)
Total word count: 78,542
Nights up writing past 1am: 63 (approximate)
Cups of coffee: 304 (actual)
On this date: In 1932, John Updike is born.