Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The End for Real

When is The End actually The End?

Last week I wrote “The End” to my sixth Samuel Craddock novel, but in my heart I knew it wasn’t actually the end. No, I’m not talking about the need to revise, edit, revise again, edit again. I’m talking about knowing I galloped to the finish line leaving little threads of story line unresolved.

I tell myself I’m done. Clues have come together to the protagonist’s satisfaction, the bad guys are dead, or have been marched off to jail, or otherwise punished. The victim has received justice. The police or the detective or the lone avenger has proven his mettle once again. So I’ve done my job.

But wait. What about the subplot that limped to a conclusion? What about the character who was promised something and never got it? What happened to the character who wandered into a scene, got readers’ attention, and never showed up again? How about that titillating scene between the cop and the showgirl? How was their relationship resolved? Has order been restored in the community? That’s what the final chapter is for. After the investigation, the chase, the climax, the arrest, comes the wrap-up.

The resolution chapter has always been the hardest for me to write, not because I can’t figure out what to write. No, the problem is making myself sit down to write it. I’ve already written “The End,” okay? What more do you want from me?

That’s where my writer’s group and my agent come in. “Wonderful book. Love it. You’re not done yet.” I shut my ears and shout “lalalala.” I’m done. I am done. Readers can use their imagination, okay? They’re not stupid. They can figure it out. Their voices continue to nudge me, and grudgingly my voice joins them, “You’re not done.”

Yes, but…I prowl around my desk, play a game on my phone, read a chapter of a book. Then I force myself to open the file and write “Chapter xx.” I type a couple of paragraphs. Oops, better see what’s happening on Facebook. And I really do need to pep up my Twitter use—no time like the present. I descend into gloom, and wander around the house. Finally I remember that I’m almost done. Rejoice. I sit down and write a few more paragraphs. Then I repeat the above about ten times. Write, mess around, pout, perk up, etc.

What is that all about? I suspect it’s that I’m not ready to leave the world I’ve inhabited for the last few months. I love some of my new pals and I don’t want to stop playing with them. I don’t want them to continue their lives without me. It’s like being dead. Or like sending your child off to college, knowing that she’ll come home, but she’ll never really be yours in the same way again.

But the deadline looms, and other stories are nagging to be written, so finally I finish the chapter, rejoice because it really, really is finished, go through the manuscript one more time looking for overused words…..The End.

Last night I sent Samuel #6, An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock, off to my editor.

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