Friday, February 22, 2008

Writing "The End"

Writing "The End" at the end of a novel is a pretty good feeling but it can also feel overwhelming. The thing is that the real work begins now. Taking everything you've written and trying to edit it so it can go out in the world. This is especially true of A Few Kinds of Wrong (AFKOW) for me. I've never had so many starts and stops with any piece of writing, never gone down so many paths only to completely go back and cut them out. It is mostly because it is a very different book for me, more character driven than plot driven and more melancholy than light-hearted. I kept falling back into using plot devices to move things along. Even the one that I did use (because, no matter what, things must move along with something), I had to have a talk and encouragement from my friend Trudy and my husband (always my first reader) to know it was okay to do it.

And, as anyone who has ever written "The End" knows, by the time you get there, you have spent so much time inside these people's heads and inside their lives, that you lose all sense of perspective. By the time you reach the last part of the book, you feel like this is the worst thing ever written and that you've just wasted all this time and energy on it. All the words seem stale and it feels like you've said them a hundred times already and you wonder who in the world will care about these dreadfully boring people and what is happening to them. Thankfully, I have a group of writers around me who I can say that to and they'll remind me that it's normal. And thankfully, I have a dog-eared copy of Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird I can turn to as well because no one can remind you of the insecurities and fears that live inside a writer's head like Anne Lamott.

For those of you who haven't read it (and you really should, whether you're a writer or not I think there are lots of life lessons in there), the title comes from a time when Lamott's ten-year-old brother had a school assignment about birds due the next day. Overwhelmed, with books about birds all around him, the boy was close to tears. His father sat down, put his arm around the boy's shoulder and said "Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird." And as I look at my notebooks full of all those stops and starts, the completed sections of AFKOW with "[insert such and such a section here]", the unnamed text files on my computer typed on the Neo that I am not sure belong in the book or not, the whole vast, overpowering lot of it, I have to tell myself to "take it bird by bird, Tina. Bird by bird" and then it feels okay (well, kind of--the whole having a baby in less than three weeks makes it feel a lot more overwhelming too, but Lamott has a great book for that too).


At 4:44 PM, Blogger nadinebc said...

Good luck with it!

At 5:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great Anne Lamott plugs ... and congrats on finally typing "The End!" I can't wait to read it ...


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