We have a Winter Storm Watch in effect and the moon is giving its own misty ring of warning.
It’s funny, when I finished drafting The Middle Princess last month, I didn’t feel much of anything. No exuberance. No post-partum sorrow. I’m not sure I even mentioned it here.
I understand now that this is because I knew I wasn’t really finished with it.
Oh, I’d written clear through to the end. I’m a beginning-to-end writer, writing the story as if I’m reading it. Which is often how it feels: write the next page so I can find out what happens! But I also knew the ending wasn’t right. I had an idea of how the problems should resolve and I kept thinking it would pop up. Maybe in the next scene? And then the story was done and this magical thing I thought would appear never had.
So, I went straight back to page one and started revising.
I knew all along I’d have to immediately revise. I’m starting to learn my own process and that’s just part of it. Now, let me make clear that this was a painful growth step for me. I know – it sounds absurd. All writers have to revise. But I don’t like it. (Though apparently I do like italics, especially today.) Back in my younger and far more arrogant days, i.e. college, I composed all of my papers on a Brother Correctronic typewriter. For those of you young-uns, this was before the popular use of the home computer and word processing and my typewriter could remember and correct an ENTIRE LINE of text. This was a miracle after years of struggling with white-out and correction tape. In the snow. Uphill both ways. Seriously, people in my dorm lined up to use my typewriter.
Anyway, I wrote all of my papers in one sitting, composed on the typewriter, with no revision. I mostly got away with it, too.
But what I’ve learned about myself as a fiction writer is, because I don’t (can’t) pre-plot, the story drifts as I go. I discover new things about the world and the characters that I didn’t know at the beginning. I’m now more resigned to the ugly need for a “do-over” on each draft.
This is totally how it feels to me. Like I didn’t get it right the first time and I have to do it again. In my head, I understand this is not a reasonable attitude, but…
So, I went back to page one and began revising, reworking and smoothing the story as I went. Making the histories consistent. I hoped that, as I approached the end for a second time, this magical something would appear.
I don’t know how I missed it the first time, but last week, I found the missing scene. The one that ties up all these little clues I found along the way. I wrote it yesterday and sped right through to the end. Everything fell into place.
This time I felt the relief, the exuberance and sorrow of finishing.
I only wish I could have whipped that final page out of the typewriter with a triumphant flourish.
I kind of miss that part.
14 Replies to “On Not Being Finished”
I had one of those typewriters in college, too. I charged people $1/page for papers, and “helped” with some editing as I typed. It was a nice little side business.
Congrats on finishing another novel!!
Thank you, Joan! And how enterprising of you – I never thought to charge anyone. Of course, I just let them use it. I didn’t type FOR them.
this is simiilar to what I do. I think of the first draft as doing all the edge peices of a puzzle and the revisions are the middle. 🙂
I love that analogy, Keri – that is exactly how it feels! The hell of it is when you have lots of blue sky…
Great post. Glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t know where she’s going when she starts a book. It’s nice to be surprised along the way, but sometimes I just get plain lost. Keri, I love the puzzle analogy.
Getting lost is part of it, I suppose, Julie!
Yep, that sounds about how the writing works up here, too. I’m so glad you found the missing scene – I hate when the unifying thingie isn’t there when you need it – and that everything fell into place.
Heh, I do kind of miss the click-clack, schwing of the old typewriter. Not that I don’t love my ‘puter. I do, but this is more like nostalgia. Grandma’s green manual typewriter couldn’t do an nth of what this machine can do, but I miss it.
See, the pre-plotters aren’t commenting because they stopped reading in disgust. I know what you mean, B.E., the sound and feel of those old typewriters – so nostalgic!
I hate rewriting too but I’m realizing it’s probably going to be part of my process always. In fact, my process sounds a lot like yours 🙂
We should have a club, Rachael!
My process is very similar too, Jeffe! It’s painful sometimes, isn’t it. What a great feeling when you discover the one thing that makes it all work and fall into place.
Oh, and I remember those typewriter days in college. 25 cents for an hour in the typewriter section of the library. Hahaha
It *is* painful – and also so rewarding. Ah, these kids today, they have no idea what they missed!