The last thing you wrote




I’ve written about 4K (of 2K – yes. It’s gruesome) today on the end to this book.  I love you all dearly and all that sort of thing, but… Needs must.

The end to this book – which has more tangled threads than Heyer’s ‘worst’, BATH TANGLE – needs me to press on just that little more. Because I finally am in the zone of tying off ends – and without just killing all of the protagonists. It’s a focus area that really I find disastrous to break.

It is curious how much one struggles with judging the number of words needed to finish: life’s little lessons, here I am on twenty something books, and I still don’t get it right. The answer is when you think you’re hitting the last scene: take the number you thought of as how much you will take to finish, and multiply it by two and add 10%.

If only I remembered that a few days back when I thought I’d be done by now, enjoying writing a leisurely MGC post. Ah well. I’m not, so I am going to leave you with a quite relevant point out of BATH TANGLE (which is my current ‘escape book’. I hope it isn’t coloring my writing too much).

On meeting a famous authoress, and being too embarrassed to set herself forward, and wishing she had:

‘For Evalina, you know, was quite my favorite book, and I am sure I was persuaded I could never love any gentleman one tenth as much as I loved Lord Orville.’

“What a pity you did not tell her so! I daresay she would have been very much pleased,’ Serena said.

‘Yes but I thought she might have wished me rather to have spoken about her last book,’ said Fanny naively. ‘Do you recall that author who dined with us once, and was affronted because your dear papa praised his first book, and never said a word about the others.’

Many a true word spoken in in text. I’ve never met an author who didn’t like you saying something nice about their book. (Nothing is however worse than damning with faint praise ‘Oh it was quite good.’ That sets teeth on edge, I promise you. Especially if they then gush about something you wouldn’t wipe your butt on. If you’re trying to tactful or kind, either say nothing, or say you enjoyed it.)

As an author learn to accept that some people will love some of your work, and not all of it. Be grateful they loved some of it.

Learn that you’re probably as buyable as the pleasure they got from your LAST book, not your first. And that depends not just on how well the book started, or worked in the midway, but in particular, the piece you leave, last in their memory: the end

Now, forgive me, but I need to work on the end.



  1. I have no knack for estimating how large a story will be, especially judging how far I have to go. But however far it is, go for it, Dave.

    Hmm, I haven’t haven’t had a Freer binge in a long time . . .

  2. LOL! I love that scene in Bath Tangle—which is one of my favorite Heyer books. (Of course, I say that about a lot of Heyer!)

    I hear you on mis-estimating words to completion. I get it wrong no matter the length of the story.

    I just got it wrong yesterday on WIP, which happens to be a short.

    I thought I had two more scenes and then done.

    But when I started working out a problem I perceived with that second-to-last scene…hah! I did solve the problem—and I’m quite pleased with how I did it—BUT it requires that I add on two whole scenes right at the front of the story.

    And, because I do know how this goes, I suspect that once I’ve written those scenes, I will discover that the changes then require that I add on another scene at the back end of the story, even though I do not perceive that necessity now.

    Writing. It’s always an adventure! 😉

  3. There is no future in being sensitive about compliments. It is good marketing info, just to know what randomly comes to mind when people squee. But it has zero to do with whether they liked one’s last book.

    Songwriters go through this a lot. The oldest songs are always going to get complimented more, because people have had more time to encounter them, sink their teeth into them, and make memories out of them. New songs are still settling in and getting accepted. Being complimented on a new song is about three times a compliment.

    There is also no point worrying when people like your worst work better than your best work. Art hooks into people’s individual minds in strange and magical ways, and sometimes the crap tossed off in five minutes is what endures. Who knows why? Who cares? Just take the money and run, and keep smiling.

    Considering how many of us cannot get our nearest and dearest to read and comment on anything… I would love to have your problems! But it is a good thing to mention, just from an author/reader manners standpoint.

    1. Are you thinking like telling James Patterson how much you loved something that was actually written by one of his ghostwriters? Or something totally off, like telling Stephen King that you thought “Bonfire of the Vanities” was his best work…

  4. I’m with you Dave. I’m down at the bottom of the pant-legs, seeking my escape from my now-200,000 word book. Its the last part of the last chapter, and they all need to get their last word in… but they won’t shut up.

    There’s always another loose end to tie or bit of clever repartee to scribe down. There’s another whole book behind this one, I can feel it like an iceberg in the fog. There’s no outline to be seen but the chill is in the air, so I have to leave the reader with some foreboding note that Something’s Gonna Happen.

    For some reason, this is really hard. ~:(

    1. I’m reminded of Bujold’s comment about how, when writing Shards of Honor, she kept thinking she was only one or two chapters away from the end, but new characters kept showing up with their own subplots, and there were always new problems kept arising. At some point, you just have to say, “Enough, shut up, the rest of you can wait for the sequel.”

      1. Yes, I’m having -amazing- new characters arrive unannounced and want to join in. Existing characters are having some very interesting reactions to a plain old garden party at some lady’s big house in Georgetown DC. I’m having to do research to get a grip on the house and the people at the party. Who the hell are all these people and why are they suddenly all speaking at once?

        Still, it beats the times when I sit down to write and there’s nothing going on. They’ve all gone on vacation or out for drinks.

      2. I had one literally announce himself as a sequel… Our Heroes have just returned from the fray where they’ve finally defeated the Big Bad, and are wondering why no one seems very happy at the news that “It’s over. It’s finally over.”

        And the new PITA (whom our guys saw in passing a couple times, but didn’t know who he was) steps forward and says, “No, father, it’s not.”

        And that’s how it ends. On to the next book, where our Brand New Son causes all sorts of trouble.

  5. Ah, but my burning question is: if someone tells that he liked Chapter 10 best in Atlanta Nights, was that a compliment?

  6. I wouldn’t say you were as buyable as you last book except in the cases of authors whom I’ve only read one of their books. If you have a string of successes, and bomb on one; I’ll probably buy your next one hoping the craptastic one was a fluke. However, if I pick up the first book I see by you and it’s wall fodder, I usually don’t buy the second (unless you have some really AWESOME cover art and a string of recommendations from reputable sources.)

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