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This Writing Life: Coming to the End

3 May, 2012

I realised as I wrote the title of this post that it sounded a bit ominous, or at the very least less than cheerful, but that’s actually rather appropriate. You see, today I want to talk about finishing novels.

As writers, finishing a novel (or a short story, or a screenplay) is what we’re all aiming for. It’s touted as a fantastic event, something to be celebrated – and it is. There are few things quite so satisfying as finishing a story for the first time, or the fifth, or the hundredth. I think there’s a thrill in it which never goes away, and it’s this thrill that’s most commonly talked about. When you finish something, you’ve taken your second big step as a writer (the first being starting something) – you’ve ‘levelled up’.

But there’s a less pleasant side to finishing a novel, one that’s not touted quite so often. For one thing, it’s exhausting. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve taken five days or five years over your story, you’ll still be tired at the end. So tired that writing anything else might feel like a distant dream, and revising that just-finished manuscript even more so.

Ah yes: revisions. I know some people love the editing stage, but for me it’s always hard work. It takes organisation, and ruthlessness, and a fine attention to detail, and for me these were skills that took much longer to develop than the sheer determination needed to finish my first drafts. Even if you love revising, it can still be as exhausting as writing the story was, and it’s just one more stage in a very long process. You don’t have to have written many stories to realise that first draft is called the ‘first’ for a reason – there’s so much more to come.

Finally, there’s something of an emotional wrench that comes with finishing a story, or coming close to the end of one, as I am now. Your characters, your world – at least for the time being, you have to put them aside (unless you’re going to be one of those writers who just keeps going on a never-ending first draft, millions of words long, but I wouldn’t recommend it). Maybe you’re actually sick of the book – in which case you’ll be dreading revisions even more – or perhaps, like me at the moment, you’ve loved writing it so much that you’re beginning to wish you were still somewhere in the middle.

Perhaps this is an overly negative post. I certainly don’t want to persuade anyone not to finish their novels. However, there are all sorts of difficulties involved in coming to the end of a story, and considering them ahead of time – do I know how the plot’s going to wrap up? have I left enough time before my deadline to put the damn thing aside for a while, so I’m not sick of it during revisions? do I have more stories in mind, so I don’t wake up one day and have nothing to write next? – can make that ending a little bit smoother, and a little bit more pleasant.

  1. 3 May, 2012 9:28 pm

    I know what you mean, I love that first draft and the great feeling you get when you get to The End. Then I get nervous – I have to edit and think about submissions eek!

    • 4 May, 2012 10:46 am

      Ah, I didn’t even think of submissions when I wrote this! Hah, I must be subconsciously trying to forget about them… Definitely the most stressful part of the process for me!


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