What lies on the Other Side?
Does this question conjure up creepy images of the afterlife? The shadowy realms that border graveyards? OK, ignore me, its my horror frame of mind at the moment as I contemplate a Brisbane ghost story.
What I really had in mind was probably something equally horrific – well at least for me. And that is what lies on the Other Side of my last work in progress.
I usually conceive the story before I start. I might fill in gaps as I go, and everything certainly comes alive, but by the time I am steaming toward the end I am picking up some appreciable pace. By the time I write to the end (I’m talking first draft here, not all the other thousand times I rewrite it) I am sometimes so pumped that I can hardly sit in the chair. I guess I’m a finisher – which probably explains the trouble I have with beginnings. Or starting something.
Once I’ve finished a project, I have a pretty massive creative crash. Going from that level of immersion into a new project is tough for me. I know this is the absolute opposite of many others, but facing the first, blank page of a new world is like sitting on the floor after harakiri contemplating my entrails in a state of mortal agony. OK. Might be getting a little dramatic. I guess you probably realise I am there right now. Related to this is my problem of holding onto things way longer than I really should.
Don’t get me wrong, starts are exciting as well. Its fun being able to leap conceptually in any number of directions and give birth to something completely new.
So how do you face The Other Side? The period of completion after your creative project? Do you jump for joy, light up a cigarette and crack a bottle of champagne? Do you crash mentally and emotionally? Do you breath a sigh of relief and reach excitedly for the parchment?
What is the Other Side like for you?
>::Leaning against the computer:: Was it good for you too?Love that completed state of mind. You think a reader wants a good ending? Is nothing compared to what the writer wants.Then Reality hits. Did I wind up most of the sub plots? What's the final word count? How many scenes were just sketched in and now must be written? What shall I look for first, "it's" or "-ly" words? Editing is not my least favorite part, that would be selling. But I don't enjoy it. Some people get compulsions to clean house, as an avoidance mechanism. I get New Ideas. Before the finish I was able to ignore them. But editing is too flimsy a shield.That clean sheet of paper holds no terror. Instead it is the Siren calling me away from editing.
>I have yet to reach that hallowed ground on the far side of the finishing line with my writing. I have, however, some experience of this delightful feeling froom the time I completed by dissertation. 15,000 words (oh how that felt like so many!), four months of research and about eight weeks that consisted of the same, Groundhog Day-esque day of waking, writing, sleeping, took its toll.When I finally pressed the last key, had done the last read-through, and passed it, clammy-handed, across to the department secretary, was something akin to euphoric. Then for the next three days walked around like a brain-dead zombie, bumping into walls and moaning barely-coherent cries of joy.Then I read through my bound copy and found a typo. New ground in the science of swearing was broken that day.
>Chris, There's something really satisfying about tying up all the ends of a story.And there's something really frustrating when your characters refuse to do what you want them to.It usually means they have started to diverge from your original concept for them.
>I used to feel that way. When novels took more than a year to write, I used to wander around in a daze, grieving, for days after finishing. Now, I go for Matapam's distraction system. Only Pam mine, really, start pouring new ideas BEFORE I finish.I've found it best to write in morning and edit last work in afternoon.Oh, and Pam, check your email. (G)
>I confess to being a starter. My problem comes in that most of the time, I don't have the full story in hand before I start. I usually cope with this after I've started, but sometimes I've just ruined it. If I like something about it so much that I have to start again, I do that but go in a different direction. I usually put a particularly loved thing about a story into different stories until I like where it sits.Finishing is usually a big relief for me. Yay, I don't suck, me thinks.Linda Davis
>Linda, for me every book is an adventure. Will I be able to pull all these threads together to make a satisfying ending?
>Hi, matapm. Ah – then you have the best of both worlds. Provided you can resist the New Ideas:)Another fun thing to go looking for is the inevitable word or words that you have overused throughout the manuscript. The damn things can be just about invisible!
>Hi, Jonathan. Welcome to the wonderful world of publishing! Even published books can have typos – particularly if its small press. I know what you mean about handing in the dissertation. When I handed in my engineering thesis I felt like I was literally walking about three inches taller – nice feeling!
>Hi, Rowena. Those pesky characters, eh? Time for a concise writer's guide called 'How to Keep Your Characters in Line (Without Killing Your Book)'. I'd say we could see a few of those at the next convention:)
>Hi, Sarah. Ah – all these tricks, eh? I see there is a bit of strategy going on there. Perhaps I need to treat my creative brain like an unruly 4-year old? 'Over here, Johnny! Come on, look at this bright shiny SF idea. Come on, write a short story. I've got the crayons!' 🙂
>Hi, Linda. Nice to know some people enjoy the Other Side:)I find it continually fascinating the different way writers approach their work. I have another friend who is neither a starter or a finisher, he is more like a 'scattergun'. Writing scene that draw his attention and until he has a kind of patchwork, then he starts moving them around and joining them up, rewriting . . rewriting. I think that approach would drive me insane, but it sure works for him!
>Having never worked a novel to completion (although I'm getting there!) I can't really share this feeling, but I can say this:There is NOTHING on this Earth that intimidates me more than a blank screen. You think I'd get used to it, because I've written so many papers for school, but I haven't. It's amazing to me how much I freak out. I almost panicked when I opened my blue book for a final last semester. I just couldn't think…and then I calmed down and focused and got a 3.8 on the test (Nobody's perfect, I guess.) Just diving back in doesn't work for me, even when I have another paper do soon. I need to take a break and psyche myself up for that next big push I guess.
>Hi, Jim. I think everyone finds the blank page intimidating. That's why its often the best to just type ANYTHING right of the off the mark. Don't let yourself be constrained by thoughts of how big the project is or how good what you are writing is, how well your hook is working, how well you have pegged the character etc – that can all come later. It much easiere to redraft than first draft!Just get something down, even if its your thoughts about the development of the character or the characters backstory. Its amazing how things get so much easier once you see a few words on the page.All the best,
>Finish? Huh? … Which pile got infinitesimally smaller?My new ideas refuse to sit off-stage and patiently await their cues. They leap out and demand to be noticed, forcing me to at least hammer out something — anywhere from a single line up through a scene or two — just to get them to shut up so I can get back to one of the three "officcial" works-in-progress. The ideas that turn out to be flash stories are less of a problem; I can usually wrap up a full first draft on those in an hour or so.Seriously, though, I've only "finished" one book, thus far. And I had two other projects (one book series, one longish short story) already in progress at the time, so "What next?" wasn't really an issue.
>Jim,If you ever get the opportunity, seek out a Con that Allen Wold is attending. His writers' workshop is entirely focused on beginnings, and I found it absolutely wonderful. (I also ended up with a great story out of it, currently submitted and awaiting editorial decision …)
>Usually I am exhausted, drained, shattered… and there is something asking to be written. Right now I have several queueing that I dare not let loose until this is done…
>Hi, Stephen. Nice to know your ideas patiently wait their turn:)
>Hi, Dave. Nice to know someone else is shattered at the end! All the best:)