Is this “The End?”

Last week I typed “The End” on a story I’ve been working on for four years. I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to write this story. I haven’t suffered any earthshaking catastrophe, loss, or illness (other than a few months of pain when I broke my back), and I didn’t need months and months to do research (though I did do a little research now and then, but mostly on the Internet).

Maybe it’s because this is the last book in my P.J. Benson Mystery series, and I hate saying goodbye to P.J. (There’s a little bit of me in her.) Or, maybe it’s because I didn’t plan on writing a fourth book in the series and only decided to do so when some of P.J.’s fans asked for more, forcing me to start the book without a clear idea of what trouble I was going to get P.J. into this time.

No matter the reason for my slow progress, I finally made it to the end. Except, as any of you reading this (if you’re a writer) knows, that initial “The End” isn’t really the end. Now it’s time for me to read through the story from start to finish. Time to cull those unnecessary descriptions, words, and character’s inner musings. Time to add words or rearrange them if the passage isn’t clear. Look for repetitions. Delete or reword parts. SHOW don’t TELL, but don’t overdo the showing if a simple paragraph of narration will get the reader (and character) from point A to point B.

And, then, when I’m satisfied that the story is the best it can be, I need to send it to Beta readers and beg them for an honest opinion. Which, once received, will necessitate another read through or two as I decide if I agree (I usually do) with the Beta reader or not.

I’m often asked (by non-writers or new writers) how long it takes to write a book. That’s one of those questions where the answer is, “It depends.” The rough draft may take a writer days, weeks, months, or years to complete. And then, there’s the polishing. For some writers, the rough draft barely needs to be touched. For others, the manuscript will need several pass-throughs before it’s ready for prime time.

In my case, even after my books have been published, it’s not uncommon for me to find a sentence I wish I could rewrite, or a description I think I now could do better. The End for me is never truly The End.

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15 Responses to Is this “The End?”

  1. I actually enjoy editing and polishing more than the process of creating a first draft. Many writers would disagree, but I find editing more relaxing than facing a blank page.

    • Maris Soule says:

      For me, writing the rough draft is like taking a lump of clay and molding it into a form. It takes a while before I get the shape the way I want it. Editing is when I smooth out the lines and add the details. It may take time, but the finished product is worth the time.

  2. Sharon Ervin says:

    Read your whole account and have to say only, “Amen, sister.”

  3. Rita Henuber says:

    Love this

  4. Anne says:

    Congratulations from Germany, Maris. How did you do it without our group’s help? Ahem.

  5. Maris Soule says:

    I have no idea, Anne. I do miss the group. Hope you’re having a good summer in Germany. Stay healthy.

  6. Clarice Cook says:

    Thank you as always, Maris. I’m an impatient writer. The characters actually rule me and I have no control. When I go back again for up to 5 edits or more, they want to hang on to every word. I have to convince them to let go and let me take over. LOL I’m a ruthless surgeon. Looking forward to reading your new book.

  7. Nancy Albright says:

    Hi Maris, I would like to be a beta reader if you need another. Hope you’re well!

    • Maris Soule says:

      Hi Nancy. Thank you for offering. I just may take you up on that, but I’ve got a fair amount of editing before I’m at that stage. I’ll talk to you later. I’m well. Hope you are, too.

      • Nancy Albright says:

        Happy to hear you’re well Maris. All is well with me too. Yes, please let me know if you need me. Happy editing!

  8. Exactly right. “The end” is never the end. When I wrote the first four Savage Destiny books, I thought I as done, but they haunted me. This family’s story was not finished. It turned into 7 books. Same with my Outlaw Hearts story. I was not going to go past #2. Now I am on #6. For me, “the end” is kind of sad – even if you’re done with all the re-writes and editing and the book has been published. It’s never “the end” if you have fallen in love with your characters and they are so real to you that you feel like you’ve abandoned real people when you go on to other books. I literally (yes, I’m crazy) wonder, when I die, “who will take care of my characters, or who will care that they ever existed?” Yes, I need mental help.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Nope, you’re not crazy, Rosanne. If we don’t get attached to our characters, I think something is wrong. They need to become real to us if we’re to make them real to readers. P.J. and Wade will be hanging around in my head until I die, and I hope will be remembered by some of my readers.