September 7, 2011

Ends and Odds

As I get toward the end of rewriting one of the storylines in my novel, I'm remembering various exciting and intimidating things about endings. I still have a lot of revision ahead of me, with two storylines left to go, but since the stories are interlaced throughout the manuscript, I'll soon be working on the book's final chapter. This is also the story that occurs last chronologically, so it's the last chance for the characters to find resolution before their lives go off into unchronicled territory.

Whenever I get close to the end of a manuscript, the note-taking becomes more frantic than ever. My chapter notes fill with reminders of all the loose ends that need to be tied up, and then each annotation tends to bounce around between the last two or three chapters several times before finding a final resting place within the text. At the end is also where I discover all the small details that I want to refer back to but somehow forgot to introduce earlier, so more notes get attached to chapters near the beginning.

This points out a quandary of reaching the end of a revision, particularly in this case: Do I now immediately go back to the beginning and make the numerous small additional changes that I've discovered this storyline needs? Or would it make more sense to move on and finish revising everything, with a final sweep at the end? I can see benefits and drawbacks to both options.

At least as I approach the ending this time, I'm not experiencing the common early-draft panic about whether I'll even be able to bring the story to a satisfying conclusion. While there have been many changes to this storyline during this revision, the very end will stay about the same, and I think it now works much better than before. I might even keep the same final sentence that I had in the last draft. But I won't be sure until I get there.

Good Stuff Out There:

→ At The Millions, Josh Rolnick traces his journey toward a career of writing and publishing short stories in My Life in Stories: "I am not, however, one of those writers who has always wanted to be a writer. My mom will tell you: I wanted to be an entomologist."

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