"The End" is Only the Beginning

I've had a lot of people ask me lately about how I celebrate finishing a novel. "It must be such a wonderful feeling when it's done!" they say, and then they sit eagerly forward with their little shining faces tilted upward, waiting for me to tell them about the wrap parties and caviar and trips to exotic places where I sip champagne on the beach and take calls from Hollywood.

I don't have the heart to tell them it's NEVER finished: that no matter how much I want to feel accomplished and happy, I never am, and that more often than not I'm pretty convinced that the entire thing is worthless. Want to know a dirty little secret of us writers? Most of the real work in writing a novel happens after that first draft. After all the cutting and rearranging I get to a point where I'm happy enough to send it off into the world, but the feeling that I've never quite captured what I wanted to do is probably what makes me keep trying to write another one. Writing the perfect novel is like trying to grab smoke; it just keeps slipping through your fingers.

On that note, Graham Joyce has a brilliant post up on his blog about what it's really like for us writers to type "the end." I couldn't have said it better myself.

Comments

I love love LOVE this post. Shared it on my fb page. As I go through what I hope are the final stages of restructuring before beginning to query, I can so relate to what you've said. Because each book is a learning process; each book, whether published or not, has its own learning curve.

Great post! (And does this mean you're out of deadline hell?)
So true, Nate! It is a relief at least for the story to have a beginning, middle, and end. Not that I'd want ANYONE ever reading one of my first drafts (except my poor, beleaguered critique partners.)

I'm often afraid I'll croak before I finish revising and someone will find the thing on my computer, shake his/her head sadly, and declare it proof that I was destined for the scrapheap.

Now you've stumbled on it - my true motivation for revising quickly! :)
"I'm often afraid I'll croak before I finish revising and someone will find the thing on my computer, shake his/her head sadly, and declare it proof that I was destined for the scrapheap."

That's where I am now. It's such an awful feeling, but such a great motivation.
Mylène said…
Upon our exits, we need someone like Morgan Freeman at the end of "The Dark Knight" to type in a few letters that will destroy within seconds (and preferably with lots of cool sparks) all that was necessary but ultimately heinous in our computers.
Joni Rodgers said…
That is a great post by Graham Joyce. One more reason a great critique group is such a luxury: we celebrate those milestones so the moment never feels like one hand clapping.
Todd Ritter said…
Finishing that first draft is just the beginning of many, many revisions. From yourself. Then your agent. Then your editor. Then the house's copy editor. Then you have to tweak the typeset manuscript. I've just gone through all those steps, so while I'm at THE END of one book, I'm at the beginning of another. So it seems to me like it NEVER ends.

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