December 20, 2004

the end (for real this time)

Okay, now I can celebrate. I've finally finished the first draft of my novel. Yes indeedy, yes I have. And it feels so, so good. And Im so so proud. And I finished, yes I did, and I'm happy, yes I am and it's good, yes it is. (And I'm not drunk, no I'm not.)

The difference? I rewrote that last ten pages last night. It may not be perfect but it fits now and I can call the manuscript whole now. Because yes, things before the end can be screwy and uneven and oh-my-god-you-have-to-fix-that! messy and I and my first readers can accept that. But if the end bumps, well, I think you end up responding to the entire story based on that, even if you don't mean to. I want my readers to close the book with a sigh, feeling that emotional conclusion, that sense of completion. A sense of wholeness, it comes back to that. And I think if the last ten pages yank you out of the story because of their not-rightness, you will end up feeling like you ate only half your meal. And so I considered the novel incomplete even though the draft was technically finished.

It's a funny thing, too. The rewrite was pretty small, a matter of shifting emphasis. All the actions happened in the right order, they just felt wrong. The why was wrong. And at the end of the story, that matters. A lot.

So I rewrote last night, printed the pages this morning, and gave them to my mother, who had already read from page 175 through page 538 in the last three days. She read the new pages before lunch. We sat down to talk about the novel. In depth. For the first time, I can discuss the whole thing with someone and get feedback. Did this work for you, were you surprised by that, did that feel like the right emotional tone there? And she did and it was and she liked it and said she'd recommend it to someone else even if the author were a stranger. She even said that she was in tears reading the last hundred pages. That means more to me than anything. My mother is a highly critical reader and she mostly reads the kind of fiction I aspire to write. If she liked it, I've done okay.

Maybe that's why it feels okay to say it's done now. My mom likes it! Someone who isn't me has seen it, has experienced it as a pure read without knowing what comes next, and has enjoyed that read. That's a powerful feeing for me as a writer. More so than I expected, given the number of screenplays I've written (and shown to readers). This book has lived inside of me for a long time, slowly coming to the surface to emerge in tangible form. For someone else to read and see and understand, well, it makes it real. And so now I can rejoice.

Posted by Tamar at December 20, 2004 10:09 PM


Posted by: Tiny Coconut at December 21, 2004 09:28 AM

The. Best. Feeling.
What a birthday present to give yourself.

Posted by: Chris at December 21, 2004 09:29 AM

You know, a manuscript is really a scary pile o' paper to look at, isn't it? A script is so much easier to deal with, but an entire book manuscript...phew.

Yay for finishing!

Posted by: Diane at December 23, 2004 10:05 AM