Beginning At The End

This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

Winston Churchill

It might seem a little back to front, but my first post about my writing practices is about the challenge of finishing the initial draft of a novel. For every project where I have managed to write that last sentence, there are one or two more that I have started which are now stuck in limbo. In a few cases this is because the story just didn’t work the way I hoped, but there are other partial novels on my computer with real potential that deserve to be completed.

Sitting down to actually write the final chapters of a novel is hard. After spending months with a story, on a journey of discovery with my characters, it’s sometimes tempting to put off writing the ending and bringing that process to an end. After all I know that the next stage is the editing: tearing the novel apart and questioning everything that I have written. Frankly the story is never going to be so much fun for me again.

I once overheard someone in a bookshop say that they hadn’t finished reading the last Harry Potter book, because they didn’t want the series to end. At the time I thought how silly it is to deprive yourself the pleasure of those last chapters. However, it’s no more silly than me denying myself the satisfaction of finishing my own stories.

Another problem I often face at this point in drafting a novel is a loss of momentum. I am a keen participant in NaNoWriMo and find that the challenge is a great way to kick-start a story. I have my word-count target, a progress chart to keep me on track and a great group of friends all writing alongside me as we cheer each other on. However, then November ends.

At that point I have over fifty thousand words, not a full novel but well on the way. I should just keep writing, but frankly after a month of trying to squeeze 1,666 words into my busy schedule every day I am feeling sleep deprived and more than a little burnt out. So I pause, take time to catch up with other aspects of my life and, before I know it, Christmas has arrived.

In the new year, I try to pick up where I left off, but it is never quite the same. There are so many other things vying for my attention and so I think it can wait just a little bit longer. Before I know it, the months have flown past and that story which consumed my thoughts for a whole month no longer feels so important.

However, it is important. Our stories are valuable and deserve to be released into the world. I have to recall the previous times I’ve reached that amazing landmark in the writing process. Completing a first draft is a long way from having a finished novel, but it is still an amazing feeling to have achieved it. When I get there, the story that was trapped in my head has suddenly become something that could be shared with others (even if I plan to do a lot more work before showing it to anyone).

So I go back to the unfinished draft, write those final chapters and tackle the next challenge of working out how the story finishes (which is another problem for another post). After all, I must remember that writing The End is only the beginning of the story.

May your adventures be full
of mystery and magic

Paul

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