Views From the Engine Room

Articles on the unique challenges of working as an Indie Author.

WHEN THE END ISN’T

I am closing in on my third novel and I really want to wrap it up. I think it was Hunter S. Thompson who said something about writing being a kind of purgatory…

You want to finish it, especially if you craft your stories like I do, line by line–agonizing over the difference between “a rock” versus “the rock”. Is anyone really going to care about word order and the word “only”? Where was that excellent thesaurus site? Damn, I can’t find it. There was an adjective on that site that wasn’t on the other site…AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

I really need to finish my books because they possess me and yes, there are times I feel like my head does a full 360! (“Let me see, book exorcist, book exorcist…nothing in the phone book.”). I don’t hear everything people say to me. I don’t see everything my eyes look at. I get absent-minded because I am preoccupied with the imaginary world I created in my head (isn’t this the definition of insanity?).

So I rammed through the ending. “It’s done!” I declared only that it isn’t.

As a reader, it pisses me off when I spend a lot of time reading a book only to feel like I was cheated at the end, likely because the author just wanted to finish the damn thing. I get it; but as a writer, guess what? Rarely do you finish a book just once.

The end of a book should never be rushed. In fact, it deserves as much consideration as the rest of the book that came before it. It deserves days if not weeks to think about, edit, rewrite. It’s very important because a terrible ending can blow the whole book!

I am now once again in the ending, up to my eyeballs in it. It’s getting all knobbly and crunchy with details because I am anticipating the sorts of things my readers may want to know–what happened with this character? Who done’ it? Did they do it? Did they get married?

I am a big fan of taking breaks when I am on a writing project. I can tell I need one because I lose my edge, get tired. It is during my breaks that my writing becomes refined. My breaks always involve getting out of boxes (literally and figuratively) and simplifying my environment as much as possible meaning I go outside. I walk the dog down a quiet road. Take out the kayak. When I relax my body and mind, aspects of the story rise to the surface of my mind, naturally, like yeast rising. Soon I see a problem with this aspect of the plot, or that a character should do something different…it’s an amazing process. There is no forcing, no agony–I do something physical in the beauty of the natural world, and the process occurs. Within a few hours, few days, I am back at it again.

I knew when I finished the novel, got to “the end” the first time, as much as I wanted to finish the book, it didn’t feel done. I took a break. When I “finish” it for the third, fourth time, when the ending is as rich as the rest of the story, I feel it ‘deep within my very bowels’, I’ll be done.

It’s rare for anyone to finish a book just once. If you do, congratulations but my advice is finish it, take a break, then finish it again–until you just know it’s truly THE END.