Monday, March 19, 2018

End Result

I've just reached the end of my new book. I make a distinction between 'reaching the end' and 'finishing'; for me they are two very different things.

The great thing about reaching the end is that I know the story works. I've now got past the terrifying stage where the plot gets more and more complicated and shows no sign of ever stopping and it now has a beginning, a middle and – hurrah! – an end. But there's a lot of hard work ahead.

I don't describe this as a first draft. I'm constitutionally unable to go on writing when I know that something I've already written is inconsistent with what I'm writing now; I have to go back and change it. Not doing that would feel to me like going on building a house when you knew the foundations were faulty and it could collapse at any time.

Continuity has to be maintained too. I have previous on making mistakes with that – like a car that went on fire in chapter two and was being driven around a few chapters later – and if I don't keep a time continuum mistakes get embedded and trying to spot them first of all, and then dig them out is a complicated business.

So the job I'm starting on next week isn't exactly a rewrite. I come to it with a list of editing points that have accumulated, where I know something ought to be emphasized or clarified. It's an evaluation of what's there and how it can be improved and polished and initially it's quite an appealing prospect – at least on the first run-through.

But the nearer the time gets for letting it out of my hands, the more the worry creeps back. I start seeing all its faults and get savage with it – hacking back verbiage, deriding implausibilities, slashing wordy dialogue, trying to see it with the eye of a critical stranger rather than that of a fond parent. By this stage I have convinced myself it's rubbish and can't bear to let it out of my hands.

There was a mention last week of re-reading one's earlier books. I can't, particularly at this stage. They were published, so an editor liked them and readers have enjoyed them; my poor, pathetic infant of a new book has no such imprimatur as yet. I look at it with pity and fear.

And then the time comes when I have to let it go out into the big cruel world. I read it through one final time and it's only then I find myself thinking, 'Well, perhaps it isn't so bad after all.' I press 'Send.'

That's when it's finished. It's still a long way ahead but at least I can celebrate making it to the end.


Rick Blechta said...

Reaching the end of a novel -- as opposed to finishing a novel -- is such a wonderful feeling. Yes, there's a lot of tough work ahead, but at least you finally have a complete "something" -- and that's a Good Thing, isn't it?

Rick Blechta said...

And I meant to close off with: CONGRATULATIONS!!! but I hit send too quickly. Sorry 'bout that!

Aline Templeton said...

Thanks, Rick, though I'm still at that stage when I'm not sure they're yet in order!!