Monday, February 01, 2010

The End? No, Just The Beginning

If nothing goes wrong (and something usually does), I'll write for a couple of hours today. During that time, I should complete the last few scenes of the novel on which I've been working for several months. To tell the truth, I've written sort of slowly for the past few days, knowing that I was about to reach this point. There's something sort of sad about coming to the end of a book, whether it's one you've enjoyed reading or one you've sweated over and created.

But, fear not. I have more to do. After writing the first draft, to quote the Carpenters, "We've only just begun." My preferred process involves re-reading the preceding few scenes each time I sit down to write, editing them while I get an idea of what I was writing and where I was going with it. That means that there's been a certain amount of editing all along. However, there's more to be done.

I'll start from the first and read through the whole novel, trying to deepen the characters and make their activities and emotions more consistent. I'll look for inconsistencies in the story. This was pointed out to me early in my writing journey by Dr. Dennis Hensley, who questioned how a character could leave his car at one location one evening and hop in it at a different one the next morning. Time travel? Did Scotty beam him up? Now I look for those things. I'll polish the wording, killing off adjectives and adverbs right and left, removing unnecessary commas, and looking for overuse of such pet words of mine as "just."

I have a lot of work ahead of me, but I look forward to polishing the story. After all, now I know how it ends.


Timothy Fish said...

I don't think I've ever been sad to finish a book I'm writing. As I near the end of the book, the pace picks up, both mine and in the story. I work longer and harder, staying up later at night and getting up earlier in the morning. Though I may not have all of the details worked out, I always know how it is going to end long before that point and usually before I begin writing. Ever since the midpoint, I've been driving to that end, so when Heather is actually happy to have her husband wrap his arms around her or when Martin and Kim are standing next to two girls with wet hair, I'm excited.

Jody Hedlund said...

Congrats on getting to the end! I do think we always have a mixed emotion--we're excited about finishing, but sad to leave the friends we've made!

Catherine West said...

Oh, I hate first drafts because they're never even similar to what the actual finished book looks like once I get through with all the re-writes. So for me, it's definitely the beginning. First draft means exactly that! But it would be nice to be finished one. I'm trying to find some motivation out there somewhere, and not having much luck.

Richard Mabry said...

Timothy, Jody, and Catherine--thanks for your comments. As usual, I was too optimistic. Life did indeed supervene, so my writing was limited by time spent helping out a family member. However, I did manage to get a couple of scenes written. Two more half-scenes (started, not finished) and I'll have the first draft completed.

Timothy, you and I reach the end of our stories in different ways, but just reaching the end is a triumph, don't you think?

Jody, it's sad to come to the end of a journey with our characters when they've become friends. I actually killed off a character in my first novel--didn't intend to, I liked him. But nevertheless, I found him dead one day.

Cath, hang in there. If I lived in Bermuda, I probably wouldn't be motivated to stay indoors and write either.

Carol J. Garvin said...

It's always a sense of accomplishment to complete what I set out to write and yet I have a tendency to keep revising ad nauseam because I hate to have it come to the end. I even tried re-using some of the secondary characters from one story in another story rather than say goodbye to them. Sounds silly, but.....