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.