Thursday, January 15, 2009

The End...

So what's that feeling like for you when you reach The End?

I ask because tomorrow, if all goes according to plan, I will reach the end of a revision draft, and it's got me thinking. So, what's it like to finish a draft for you? First, second, third, fourth? Twelfth? Novel or short story or article or poem? Do they differ? How does it compare to coming to the end of something you're reading? Similar or different?

I'm looking forward to tomorrow (even if the completion of this draft means I merely go back to the beginning to start over again...), but does everybody like finishing a draft? Do some people miss it? Immediate nostalgia, perhaps? Maybe they feel like they're suddenly adrift on the sea...

So lay it on me, folks. I give you carte blanche on the topic. The End.


Ms Kitty said...

To stop working on a story takes an effort of will. Revision is a constant process, if I am only tweaking a sentence, or revising a scene.

I get a little giddy when I've finished a short story. Sending one out, hitting that 'send' button is a thrill. When I got the word that my flash fiction had been accepted, it was huge rush. Seeing it in print was a thrill.

A manuscript is different, because it is a long process. I'll work on it for a month, then print it out, tinker with it, print it out, tinker some more, and so on.

When I was finished with 'Besieged' it felt 'right' so I stopped working on it. But in all honesty, if I get to the stage where an agent looks at it, I will have to rewrite.

With the current project, every chapter completed is a victory. This time I am writing beyond my comfort zone. Beyond what I know, into this Gothic ghost story that has to stay plausible; yet contains witchcraft, a haunted machine, a drug ring, two spirits who sold their souls to the 'devil' and the creepy artist who writes the contracts.

I'm applying bits from the "Breakout Novel" workbook. The goal is emotional tension between the characters, a build up of plot tension, a feeling of suspense and a little thrill of fear on nearly every page.

It's a huge leap forward. Even if neither manuscript ever leaves the house for publication, I've learned so much.

I suppose the thrill is tempered by the knowledge that the next one, (short story, chapter, draft) has to be better.

Bookworm1605 said...


Sarah Jensen said...

Great post and great comments.
For me, the first time, I was proud of myself. And with each edit, I'm a little happier, because it's getting better.
With the one that's not in a series, when I finished it, I was a little sad. But not so bad, since I've still got to edit it. But I'm waiting to edit it until I'm done with another edit of my first.
Things seem clearer that way.
So I guess I'm mostly happy. I love to write. I love to read. And so far, as long as I wait a little in between writing and editing, I still love my characters and story.

Ink said...

Finished the draft! Yes, it's a good feeling. Coming to The End... there's a certain euphoric feeling. It's like winning something you really wanted to win, something that took a lot of hard work and perseverance, and I think the strength of that feeling grows with the amount of work invested in the project. I was going to say size of the project, but that's probably innacurate. A longer work that was easier might not give the same jump as a shorter work that was extremely difficult.

And first drafts are the best, because for the first time the story is complete, it's there. Though seeing a finished, bound book on a shelf... that would be pretty sweet. But I must admit that with later revisions there's usually a sense of relief, too. This is a very long book, and I've been through it... well, the number of times is in double digits now. And more to come. So there's an element, too, of being a little sick of it (even though I still love it). It's a bit like that feeling of wanting quiet time, without anyone bothering you. You love them, yes, but your head hurts and you just want to sit for a moment in the quiet, dark room.

That first draft, though... that's a great feeling for me. It's like when I finish reading a great novel and close the cover... only magnified. It's sort of like an Uber-ending. Exhiliration. I usually feel physically light, like I can jump twice as high or run twice as fast as normal.

Yet finishing later drafts has its own magic. Its a slower feeling, maybe because the process has slowed down. It's about stages, about incremental steps as you slowly try to perfect the story. Each draft gets you a little closer to what you want. You don't have quite that Va Va Voom feeling anymore, but there's certainly a satisfaction. I mean, on this book the first draft was grossly huge, almost 300,000 words. Aaaahhhhh! But endless drafts later I'm sitting at 193,000 words. Still longer than I want it, but... it's something to cut 107,000 words from a story, which is the length of a long novel in and of itself. There's a satisfaction there (accompanied by a desire to never again write a 300K first draft). And knowing that there's that satisfaction in reaching The End makes it a little easier to head back to page one for the twelfth round (I'm ahead on the judge's scorecards, though I've taken a couple hard right hooks to the head and my eyes are a little blurry...)

Oddly, I don't much enjoy hitting the "send" button for a story, even though I'm always eager for readers. I find the details of submission to be a sort of busywork hassle, like doing the account books. I know I have to, but I'll just put it off a day or two or thirty...

And luckily I only feel misery when I start getting comments back. "It's great, but..." But? What do you mean, "but"? There's no but! What're you talking about? But!? I mean, I tell you...


Ms Kitty said...

Getting Crits back can be a baffling experience. There are times I end up scratching my head wondering if they didn't read the story, or if I totally blew it as a writer.

Hey Book, is that list in order? (G)

Ink 300k? Holy Writer's Cramp Batman!

My FtF group had to beat me with a (proverbial) stick to get me to commit to 60k.

Sara, it is good to love your own characters. If you can't love them, who will?

Bookworm1605 said...

That's my usual journey from the elation I feel when I finish a story to the misery that eventually settles in when I'm not working on a writing project.

I don't know if it exactly fits me but I've always liked this quote:

"I don't like to write. I like to have written." - Gloria Steinem

Ink said...

That's funny, Book, because I like to write. I like to have written only if what I wrote came out really good. :)

Ms. Kitty-
Yup, 300K... and never again. If I even head in that direction again I hope somebody slaps me. And you can do 60K! Now if only I can find a way to cut another 60K...

Wanu said...

I find finishing a first draft is a strange experience.

We all know that first drafts are crappy things that are going to need a lot of attention. But I think completing one marks an end to intimacy with the characters and the vibe of the story.

It's like, you lived it, the whole thing, you were there when it happened, it made sense, and it was dramatic and cool, and even though there were times when you had to break from the fiction, it was a very close experience between you and that particular creation.

Polishing, then, I think is almost akin to having photographed something amazing (say, an elephant charging at you), but with that picture in-hand, you then load it up into photoshop and decide on the lighting, the size, and things like this, and when you've got the most dramatic version, you then want to choose a frame...

I think the first draft is a very personal journey, and the polishing, a very professional journey.

There are still triumphs and challenges at the professional stage, but I think the 'end point' of that is very arbitrary: you've had so many versions, and given it so much energy, and you just suddenly go 'I don't see how this could be better', and submit it to the crit group, and then get told how it could be better, and the magic returns for a while when you go 'this could be amazing, this would make such-and-such a thing stand out, raaarrrr!'

I think coming to the end of that is a kind of disappointment. Like having 'kissed the winged joy' and then watched the winged joy fly off to live its own life. You know, that's what this story will have to do now, it's job is to touch many other people the way it touched you.

I haven't been as far as Ink, I haven't had an agent tell me 'do this, and we're interested in it'. That would be fun! I think I'd be all nervous and excited and unsure if that ever happened.

Until then, though, I find that the first thing I think of when I've finished a draft... is the sequel! I get a crazy urge to take the previous characters and throw even bigger stones at them, to kill off important figures, and come back years later for a catch-up. I suppose that's a kind of symptom of the 'separation' feeling, but yeah, I think finishing a first draft is both triumph and sadness. Bizarrely, the triumph is a professional type feeling (and that's what you have to move into to get the thing truly complete) and the sadness being a personal feeling of... I dunno... abandonment? Isolation? Burned bridges? Hard to describe, I mean the characters are make believe, and the worlds massaged by us to challenge them... and then it's all gone.

I think finishing a first draft is profound. It's amazing the first time, but probably you need to square you professional head and get used to it all the times after that, like, you know, 'finish that, polish it, send it out, start on the next' kinda thing.

Mind you, having said that, I'm sure that all of us - everyone who reads this - will be familiar with that sensation of a new story 'taking over' just as you reach the crest of the thing you were working on before. I've seen countless references to that, and I've got to admit, it happens to me, too. I can't resist it, though, I open on two fronts and work on both projects.

Maybe that's it, though? Maybe the creative part of us goes, 'damn, this is coming to an end. Here, dude, have something shiny and new to indulge in!'