Thursday, February 21, 2008

Thoughts on Writing THE END

Do any of you grapple with coming to the end of a manuscript? I (and this is Debby, in case you wondered) find myself doing all kinds of strange activities to avoid facing the finish. This morning I went for a bike ride, answered email ad nauseam, and then washed the dog’s bed. I still have about a hundred pages to go, and only a few weeks to do it. What am I thinking?!

And why is this? In the middle of the book, I zip right along and enjoy every pitfall my characters encounter. I have a great time building the plot, developing nefarious individuals, and leading my protagonist into danger. But in the end, I’ve got to tie it all together. Everyone’s activities have to make sense, the characters’ motivations need to be true, and most of all—it needs to satisfy the reader. I want the end to be REALLY good.

I know part of my procrastination is due to the fear I won’t pull it off, but I’m also reluctant to let go the people I’ve grown to know so well. I might even have to kill a few of them.

Not long ago, I read a “literary” bestseller (I probably should refrain from naming it, but I’d bet you know it) that made a big splash. It got major awards and sold hundreds of thousands of copies. And I hated the end. Up to the finish, the writing was excellent and the characters compelling. Then I got the feeling the author just didn’t know what to do with the people she’d created.

And that’s exactly what I don’t want to do. (Though I’d love to have this writer’s sales.) So what’s going on? Maybe I’m way too critical—of others and myself? I checked this book’s reviews, and a few people felt the same way I did, so I’m not totally alone. Definitely a minority, however.

But I’ve got to keep at it, no matter what. I can always rewrite (several times), which is a satisfying process. And then my editor looks at it. She may or may not have suggestions, but I like this aspect of novel-shaping. I trust my editor.

After that, I have to let it go. It’s out there for the world to see, to compliment if I’m lucky, and criticize if I’m not. It’s too late to change a word, or add an action that makes better sense than what I’d written the first time. But that’s a writer’s dilemma, isn’t it?

And now I need to get back to that manuscript...


Rick Blechta said...

I know what you mean about not getting to hang around with your characters anymore. I don't slow down near the end, though; I just finish off the book and get profoundly depressed for a few days.

A week or two later, I read through the ms, and then get suicidally depressed...


So, just hold your nose, pound furiously until you're done and run for the door! Good luck!!

Vicki Delany said...

I gallop through the end. I love writing the beginning when the ideas are fresh, and the end when it gets exciting and all the ends are nicely tied up. It's the soggy middle I have trouble with.

NL Gassert said...

To combat the depression that comes with the end of a book and the loss of characters, I decided to write a series. I get to keep my main characters (and the countless hours of research that went into them), but I can kill off everyone else :-)

I'm not sure yet what to do about the "soggy middle."