Saturday, March 16, 2013

The End by Jody Casella


Okay, it was my suggestion that we write about New Beginnings this month. But now that I'm sitting down to write about beginnings, I realize that what I really want to write about is Endings.

I have lots of experience with beginnings. But I'm more of a newby when it comes to endings--the kind where you really and truly are finished writing a book.

On my long road to publication I wrote many books. There's always this feeling of anticipation and hope when you start a new manuscript (or pick up an old one with thoughts of revising it) that this time, this one, will be the ONE. The one that works. The one that clicks. The one that crosses over and catches an editor's eye. The one that will some day sit on a bookstore shelf.

I have written the words The End many many times. But I never wrote the words The End and knew it was really and truly THE END until a few weeks ago.

Here's my usual experience with endings:

1. I write a first draft. When I reach "the end" I have a messy overblown overwritten thing but it is a beautiful perfect thing because it is finished.

2. It's not really finished though. This is where I pick up that overblown mess and read it with intense waves of nausea crashing over me as I realize how much work I still have left to do. I am one of those outline AFTER you write the book kinds of people. So here is where I see what I have (and what I don't have) and attempt to impose some organization. This is not editing, by the way. This is major reworking. For example: I discover that the book really begins on page 100 so I delete everything up to that point. I cut scenes that aren't working. I add scenes that are missing. I pull out unnecessary plot strands, etc. After I do all that, I work it all through to the end.

3. But who am I kidding? This is not really the end either. I've got to read the draft again and see if all those major changes I made add up. Does the book make sense now? Does it flow? Am I still missing essential stuff? Have a kept stuff around that I love but that really doesn't belong anymore? It's time to work on Draft Number Three!

4. My helpful reader friends read it after this stage. They give me advice I don't want to accept or don't believe. I argue with them in my head. I plaster a fake smile on my face and say thanks. Later, I sigh. Damn it. They are right. It's time to work through draft four.

5. I submit it. For years this was my process: I tried to get an agent or an editor to read my manuscript. They didn't. Or they did and didn't like it. Or they liked it but didn't love it. Or they liked it but wanted me to revise it. Or more likely, I'd be stumped about what to do with it so I'd put it away and start another book.

I did this with ten different manuscripts. I wrote the words The End The End The End, mostly for my own amusement and sense of completion than for anything else.

Until a few weeks ago.

Manuscript Number Six, Thin Space. I "finished" writing the first draft during National Novel Writing Month in 2008.
I revised it the winter of 2009.
I revised it for an agent.
And for another agent. It winged around and got rejected five times. My agent retired.
I revised it again. I got another agent. And it sold! Woo! in January of 2012.
I revised it for my editor.
I revised it again.
I went through a fun round of copy edits.
Each time I'd go back into the manuscript with the same This Will Never Really End, Will It? feeling. I could conceivably tweak this book until the end of time... and then--

My publishing company sent me the Final Pages. This is basically the book printed out all nice and pretty. My job was to read it one final time. My last shot to make changes and to catch mistakes. (And maybe do something about the fact that I'd used the word "clench" 33 times?)

I went In for the last time. When I reached the end, I had a nice moment of YAH HOO I WROTE A BOOK surge of feelings, then I mailed the pages back to my publisher, opened a file on my computer--

and began writing another book.





17 comments:

  1. Congratulations on that wonderful accomplishment, Jody. I know the feeling of revising and revising and revising and wondering if I'll ever see the end of that process. I envy those few writers who get it done in a draft or two. How do they do it? Anyhow, can't wait to read your book!

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    1. Thanks, Stella! I'm not qualified to answer the question about how you do it, because I've only done it once and that may be a fluke! I'll keep you posted.

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  2. Oh, yeah. I always want to put quotes around the word "finished," as in, "I 'finished' my book." Because there's finishing a draft, finishing a submission, finishing a revision, finishing copy edits ... I always say the book isn't final until it's bound and on the shelves. ;-)

    Congratulations!

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    1. Thanks, Jenn. The funny thing is I've been celebrating after each round. The last time, I took my husband out for dinner and he was like, haven't we celebrated your writing this book already? I said, "but now it's really really finished." I think you have to take your celebrations when you can get them. And in my case, this means many many celebrations.

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  3. I loved reading your process, Jody. It gave me some pause to think that I finished my first draft of a first novel in the 2008 NaNo, too. That little collection of papers is sitting in my drawer. It's fun to think that, if I keep moving, I might get somewhere instead of having things in my drawers.

    At the same time I appreciate more the work you've put in for this debut. I wonder if there is a reward big enough to give your inner artist for all of that revising.

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  4. Oh and one question...is Thin Space your first book? You've written others but your first book is also the one going to publication?

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    1. Thanks, Karrie. And good luck with your 2008 Nano piece. Yeah, you should totally keep working on it. Or you could do what Jenn Hubbard (above) does and raid it for material for use in future projects.
      Thin Space is not my first book, btw. It is the 6th manuscript I've written. I think that only one of the 5 that came before is worth reworking (and reworking). The others will probably stay in the drawer, but scraps of those have already found their way into other projects.

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  5. Great job, Jody! Persistence is every bit as important as talent. Congrats on hanging in there. ~ Carole Gerber

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    1. Thanks! And you are so right about persistence. I know several writers--very talented ones--who gave up, probably just as they were about to cross over.

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  6. Congratulations on your perseverance and on your writing talents, Jody! And thanks for sharing with us part of your journey. It's definitely not an easy or short process. Best wishes that you'll hold many more of your books in your hands in the future. Ev

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    1. Thanks, Ev. I love hearing other writers' journeys to publication too. Most have similar tales, and it's something I wish I knew way back when I first started.

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  7. Congrats on THIN SPACE, Jody! I love this post, and completely agree! lol
    THE END is never really the end, is it? Even after it's bound and printed (sometimes more so, then) we are never able to say "This book is finished." We can only do what you did... Open a file and start all over.
    Great post!

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    1. Oh sheesh, Jamie! I was really kinda hoping that once the book was printed up, it was The End. But I just read another writer talking about how she still has the urge to mark up and edit her printed books. Drat.

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  8. Conquering such an enormous project is so addictive! Once you get one done, you want to challenge yourself all over again...

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  9. What an amazing and timely article. I refuse to write The End on any of my drafts because I know that it's not really. Plus, I don't want to let myself feel that there's nothing more I can do. I cannot wait for the real The End. Congratulations on reaching it!!! And best of luck with your new WIP!

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  10. Thanks, Daisy. Something I'm thinking about now, with a different manuscript, is how to know when it's time to stop. There is always more that can be done to make it better, but is there a point where you can make it worse?

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