Friday, November 06, 2009

"The End" Doesn't Mean You're Done

What I'm reading: Kindred in Death, by J.D. Robb



I'll be one of about 20 authors signing books on Saturday. I know the majority of you aren't local, but this is our RWA chapter's annual event to raise money for the Adult Literacy League in Orlando. Twenty percent of the proceeds will be donated to the organization, thanks to Barnes & Noble. Literacy is near and dear to me, and I've been a volunteer for the Adult Literacy League for over a decade. I'm plugging the event here because I'd like you to think about donating something -- time, money, in-kind donations -- to a charitable organization you choose.

As I type this, I'm optimistic that I will have reached "The End" of my first draft of my mystery before this post hits the blog. Endings are harder for me than beginnings, and since it's a mystery and not a romance, I'm entering new territory. The bad guy is in custody. He's confessed. The hostage has been rescued. And the twist on the missing "secret" will hit the page.

Keep Reading...

The issue, as I'd mentioned earlier this week, is that since I know all the facts, the writing gets tedious. How can I present it to the reader so they feel the tension? Because I don't share those feelings. It's more of an, "Okay, get on with it" feeling. I've known what's going to happen long enough that there's no thrill.

However, I'm optimistic that one way or another, even if it's a dull, dry info dump, it'll be on the page. And then I can start to fix it. Allison Brennan shared numerous versions of her first chapter on her blog at Murder She Writes on Thursday. Knowing that a prolific, best-selling author doesn't get it down in one--or two--drafts makes me feel better.

And the final word count will be longer than my target. However, cutting 10% is always step one in edits. I'll be a lot closer after that step. Some of those cuts will be scenes that aren't needed. Some will be threads that never went anywhere. (Although I know I'll have the urge to expand them and work them in!)


But before I get to edits, I'm going to hit "save" and close the document. The first thing I'll do is indulge in one of the chocolate truffles hubby brought home yesterday.

I'll be back on Monday to let you know how everything went.

12 comments:

Sam said...

I have the same problem with endings. With a first draft, I try to take the old aviator's attitude: any landing you can walk away from is a good one. The original ending of the short story I am sending out today was excruciatingly awful, but it got me to "THE END" and I was happy with that. I'm glad I didn't worry about it all that much, because revisions made my original ending obsolete, anyway. If I'd sweated it, it would have been for nothing.

Terry Odell said...

My first writing mentor told me my stories had a beginning, a middle, another middle, and more middle. "The End" was tough then and still is. The beginning sells the book; the end has to sell your next one.

When my editor and I decided to change the original ending for "Nowhere to Hide" it took a ton of revisions just to fix individual sentences. Never mind dealing with the continuity fixes.

But I totally agree. Until there's something on the page to fix, you can't fix it.

And I admire you for being able to deal with short stories. I've written some, but ending them is worse than ending a novel for me.

Crystal Clear Proofing said...

I see the entire process of writing just amazing. I am in awe of that ability to weave a story, develop characters and plot twists...and I can easily see how the ending would be the most difficult to write. Bringing everything together with just the right elements and level of suspense...like I said, I'm in awe.

Good luck with that ending! In the meantime, enjoy those delicious looking yummies! A couple of those could very well prove to be very inspirational! Mmmm....

Terry Odell said...

Crystal, there are plenty of hair-pulling days when I'm in awe of anyone who can pull it off, too!

Carol Kilgore said...

I do the best I can with capturing the tension on first draft but don't worry about it too much. I've learned I work better at that sort of thing during the editing phase. Congrats on 'the end' - I'm at 50,000 words today.

Terry Odell said...

It's all about the rewriting, isn't it?

Patricia Stoltey said...

Okay, I know you're talking about writing and endings here, but the truffles caught my eye and my mouth is watering...

Terry Odell said...

Chocolate is a complement to ANY post!

Sheila Deeth said...

Those chocolate truffles look tempting. Twenty percent seems to be a standard number, and I hope you all get some good sales. The same percentage of our Christmas bazaar sales goes to the women's league sponsoring it, and they do lots of good work in the community.

I like your suggestion to just write it down, then fix a scene in later drafts. I think I'll try that next time I'm stuck.

Terry Odell said...

Sheila - can't take credit for that as my idea. Nora Roberts said 'you can't fix a blank page' and she's the Queen.

Maryann Miller said...

I agree that endings can be hard. It is sometimes difficult to know exactly where the story should stop. Should one more thing be explained? What about this aspect of the sub-plot, did it get handled?

I absolutely love it when I am writing away and suddenly my brain says, "This is the end. Stop." But it doesn't happen all the time. More often with short stories than with novels, though.

Hope you have a fun time at the signing event. I am doing two this weekend.

Terry Odell said...

Thanks, Maryann, and good luck to you at your signings. I have more trouble ending short stories - I want to play with my characters longer. But it's not so much as knowing where to end, it's knowing HOW to end so that the words themselves justify asking a reader to spend over 300 pages getting to that point.