Friday, May 23, 2008

The End or a New Beginning?

When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.”
-- Thomas Jefferson

I reached the end of my revisions last night. Though I still need to reread book two one more time to make sure I didn't mess anything up, I'm officially calling it done. Reaching The End is an amazing feeling, which most of you already know. But for those of you that don't, it truly is one of the most bittersweet moments a writer will ever have.

As I was rereading the resolution last night, I found myself once again having a hard time letting the book go, even though I will see it again in copy edits and galleys and reread it so many times I'll once again be sick of it. But the creation, the revising, the whole "sending them on to do something exciting" part is pretty much done. And that's the part that's hard to say goodbye to. These characters - even the villains who may be light-years different from me - all have a part of me somewhere inside, and as I get ready to send this to my editor, I can't help think it's sort of like sending my babies off into the world to fend for themselves.

Luckily, in my case, these main characters will pop up in book three in very minor places, so I know I'll see and "create" for them again, though it will never be the same as when they were central in their book. So for me this isn't really the end, but a pause. When I get to the end of book three though? That will be a different story. I've fallen in love with the main characters in book three (who were secondary characters in books one and two) and letting them (and the rest) go then will be difficult for me.

Kendra and I were chatting the other night and she posed a question that stuck with me. I'm paraphrasing here, but the gist was, "How many books does a writer really have in her?" We have all probably asked ourselves this question. What will I write next? Will it be as good as the last one? What if I don't have any more books left in me??? I've been thinking about this a lot, especially because since I sold, my brain has been mush. I could see the three books in my contract, but past that? Nothing. Even ideas I had before selling seemed to have dissipated into thin air. But luckily, in the past month new ideas have been popping. New characters, new locations, new stories. Yes, the end is always bittersweet, as I mentioned above, but the wonderful thing about writing is that it is ongoing. Characters will come and go but the writing endures. And the end isn't really the end of the line for any of us, but a new beginning. A chance to do something different. To write a new story, to create new characters, to build an entirely different world. I've said before that I don't particularly enjoy the beginning of a new book, but that's not entirely true. I don't generally enjoy writing the beginning of a book because it's the one section I have to work and rework to get just right. But I do love the idea of a new story. The possibilities. The excitement. The not-knowing-exactly-where-this-may-go feeling that brings us all right back around to page one time and time again.

Writing for me really is cyclical. Sure, we have beginnings and ends, but each just brings us back to the other if we work hard enough. Never ending. Unbreakable. Each one a knot that ties the rest together.

How do you view the end?


Alice Sharpe said...

I love this blog. I think about these same things all the time as beginnings come and go, middles drag on to eternity and endings sneak up and appear just when you'd about given up hope they ever would.

I also think it's amusing that since you sold, you rewrote parts of book one, revised book two, created a synopsis for book three (I think) and oh, wait, you also completed the first book in a multiple book proposal for a paranormal and yet you claim your brain is mush. You slacker!

I kind of see myself in your words. Nothing is ever as real to me as the book I am finishing. Once it's gone, my focus shifts and when that glorious day arrives when a new idea not only enters my head but sends the first tenuous roots into my life. Then the old book becomes just that -- the old book, the one I wrote before.

In other words, you'll fall in love again. You'll say goodbye eventually to all these people, but a whole new crowd will trickle into your life and they will come complete with their own problems and heartaches and joys. They'll demand a stage and your job, as screen writer, set designer, director, production assistant, lighting engineer, audio technician, main grip and all the rest, will rev into high gear and you'll be off!

All that said, I miss the two brothers whose books come out in July and August. I got to know those guys and I had great empathy for them and the childhood they were denied. I'm so glad they found the right women, I'm proud of the way they handled their issues and protected the people they love and sometimes I have to remind myself they're not off living their lives. For some reason, they don't seem like my creations, to me, they seem like real people. Maybe they are, in a sense.

I love this blog!

Paty Jager said...

I think this blog captures the feelings of any writer who has ever finished a project and is moving on to the next.

I love my characters all of them as I write their story. And, like Alice, they become real to me. The best part of the Halsey brother series, is the fact the main characters show up in each of the books, resurrecting them again and again. Showing the reader what is happening in their lives since their book.

So far, knock on wood, I have yet to have ideas dry up- they come much faster than I can write. So I don't have a fear of never having anything to write.

Like you say, Eli, writing is a cycle, we begin, write the book, end it and send it out, only to start another one. It's a cycle I like. I always know where I'm at and don't have to worry about straying down a side street!LOL

Elisabeth Naughton said...

Nothing is ever as real to me as the book I am finishing. Once it's gone, my focus shifts and when that glorious day arrives when a new idea not only enters my head but sends the first tenuous roots into my life. Then the old book becomes just that -- the old book, the one I wrote before.

So very true, Alice. As I go through this process, I'm learning it must be very hard to promote books that come out a year or so after they were written. When the author is deep into a different book, series, character. Each new story I write is always the one I love most at the time because it's what's foremost in my mind. And if we didn't love those characters or story, we wouldn't write them in the first place. I am very glad you are loving your brother series so much. I cannot wait to read them!!

And you're right too in that I've done quite a bit since selling even though I don't feel like I have. So often progress (for me) is measured in new words/pages written, and I keep looking at my deadline (for book 3) thinking, "I should be there, not here at this point." Thanks for reminding me that I have already accomplished qite a bit. your movie analogy. Gosh, wouldn't it be nice if we got paid for all those jobs?!

Elisabeth Naughton said...

Paty, readers love connected books for the same reasons writers love them - because we get to revist past loves. I've heard several writers say their careers really took off when they figured that out and started writing connected books/series.

Kendra said...

How'd you finish revisions when we're IM-ing all evening?

I do have a fear of not finding that next story inside of me. That fear has been floating around in my brain for two months since I saw the light at the end of the tunnel with my current work. I think it's compounded by hearing about people like Allison Brennan who has ideas for a six book series and another trilogy all at once.

Cuz I got nothin. No idea blips, no interesting characters, no visions. Nada.

Until last Wednesday night when I listened to the undercover narcotics cop at my citizen's academy meeting and a simmer of an idea started to churn in my brain. No instantly completed storyline like some people come up with. (Cough, Elisabeth's paranormal, Cough) But enough to give me hope and relief that the well isn't dry.

Karen Duvall said...

I know how you feel, Eli. And since the first book in my series hasn't sold yet, I'm starting a new book in a new series and to be honest, it kind of feels like I'm "cheating." I know that to write the next Knight book without a contract is an exercise in futility, otherwise I'd be knee-deep in it right now. But to start a new series as if Knight is already dead feels like a betrayal in a way. I try not to think about it, and to just push on to the new idea that has me just as excited as I was about KC. It's hard to put the next Knight book on hold, but I need to be pragmatic.

I'm with the rest of you regarding my feelings about my characters. They're real people. Even the new people are real, and I've hardly written a word about them yet. I have a scene that keeps replaying in my mind and I can hardly wait to write it out.

Elisabeth Naughton said...

Kendra, I don't think the well is ever dry, but it does need replenishing now and then. And that's what you've been doing. I'm glad to hear ideas are starting to pop again. It's interesting how the most random experiences spark ideas, isn't it?

As for IMing...I'm a multitasker. Didn't you know that???? LOLOLOL (The DH disagrees when I don't come to bed untl 2am...)

Elisabeth Naughton said...

Oh, Karen, I love those scenes that are in your head that just won't leave. I have several of those circulating for book three. And I really can't wait to write them.

Second book...yeah, that's a conundrum. My agent and I were just having this conversation today. Because I wrote book two in my STOLEN series before selling, I'm way ahead of the game and my publisher was able to schedule my first two releases sooner than if I hadn't written book two yet. Of course, I took a gamble by writing it - and I had to be sure it could stand alone if book one didn't sell. It did, so that didn't turn out to be a problem, and the main revisions to both books have been playing up connected characters so the books are more of a series. But that's been pretty minor, all things considered.

However, because those books are "connected" and not a true one-book-builds-on-another series, I was able to get away with it. The paranormal I recently sent my agent is a different story. It could conceivably be a several-book series, but even if I weren't under contract for my RSs I wouldn't bother working on the next para. Because the second will definitely build off the first. Knowing what I know about your Knight series, I think you're wise to hold off and not work on the next one until something big happens. And that's not cheating, that's being a smart writer.

Genene Valleau said...

Eli, CONGRATULATIONS on finishing revisions!
And, yeah, you'll get to revisit those characters when you do the galleys, when your book comes out, when you do promotion ...

I'm like Paty in that I have more ideas than I have time to write them -- and I don't write nearly as quickly as Paty. So I don't worry about running out of ideas. Ones that will sell, now that may be a different story. LOL!

Writing "the end" is a huge relief and feeling of accomplishment, as well as the beginning of another cycle, as others have said.

Whether or not to finish a book before it's contracted is an interesting question. Since the turnaround time with e-books is much shorter, mine need to be finished before I submit. And because I write fairly slowly, that's really best for me. Many times I struggle with which story to work on next when several are clamoring in my head.

Fun blog!