The End Is Just The Beginning

Every writer I know has two favorite words they look forward to writing. Can you guess what they are? I won’t keep you in suspense. They are as follows:


The last two words of every novel. It’s very difficult for me to describe my feelings whenever I write these two words. If I had to pick a single word, it might be “relief,” or maybe “satisfaction.” I’m not really sure if those would be the best word choices, but they were the only ones that came to mind when I wrote this. And, the more I think about it, the more I think that maybe a single word doesn’t do the job at all. Some of the feeling is good and some not so much. The thing is, whatever it is I’m feeling when I write those two words is fleeting. It only lasts for a half hour at most, but I savor each of those minutes. Because for a writer—at least this writer—the end is just the beginning.

After having toiled for months or years on a story, I only have a first draft. And that first draft may be a piece of crap. After spending untold hours getting to the first draft, I’m faced with the challenge of starting at page one and re-writing—and often re-writing again—until I have something that’s good enough to show to my editor.

I’ll usually put the first draft away for at least a week. Then, I’ll go back to it and incorporate the feedback I’ve gotten from my critique group, as well as other things I pick up as I re-read the manuscript. More often than not, I’ll add more scenes to fill in some holes and to make the scene transitions smoother. The initial draft of Just by Chance was almost 55,000 words. By the time I finished the second draft, it had grown to 74,000 words, an increase of almost 40 percent.

I re-read the first draft, editing again as I go, and produce a second draft. At this point, it’s ready to send to my editor, and that’s when the real work begins. My editor, Allison Itterly, is a very talented young woman, and she does an incredible job of whipping my story into shape. Characters may be cut out, scenes may be thrown away, and the entire story may be taken apart and put back together again. The result is always far better than what I started with. Just by Chance started out with three main characters—two escorts and their straight lawyer friend—and it ended with one escort as the main character and her computer geek best friend. The lawyer disappeared altogether. And the word count for the published version decreased to just more than 50,000 words. That’s a lot of trimming down. But to quote a line from one of my favorite Harry Chapin songs, “That’s just how it goes.”

Next: Murder Your Children

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