Wednesday, 1 August 2012

So that's what it was all about

Paddle your own canoe or go with the flow?
I'm about a third of the way through the final read through of my fantasy, Covenant, having gone through the traditional love / hate relationship that characterises doing my own editing. Commas have been sacrificed and, occasionally, reinstated; sentences rewritten to the level of my tolerance.


You see, Covenant is an old book. And how I wrote then, hopefully, isn't how I write now. It has its own voice though and that's why I want to nurture through to the printed page. 


What I'm most focused on is the ending.


It seems to me that the ending of a book has to serve a number of purposes:
1. To conclude the story. Or, if there are sequels to follow, to conclude that chunk of the story.
2. To tie up the loose ends you gave expectations of tying up.
3. To give the reader a sense of satisfaction because you have delivered the goods. The blurb did not lie. Thrills, spills, chills, and all manner of other rhyming words. (Grills?)
4. To whet the reader's appetite for all your other writing.
5. To say goodbye to the characters and give them a decent send-off.
6. Paradoxically, to make the reader think about the characters after they've closed the cover - in a good way. When I read a book that has touched me, I'll be thinking about the main characters for up to a week.


There are also those who say, "Leave 'em guessing. End with the sirens or the dragons arriving or the heroine holding a plane ticket that the reader can't see clearly." 


Ending a book, for a writer, is also about saying goodbye to a segment of your life. Whether anyone reads your book or not (and cheers, Jem, for your last reading of Standpoint in case you're passing), whether it's published or not, I guarantee that every writer can be instantly transported back to that time if they were to read their work back again. Maybe that's why I've been told that few authors enjoy reading their own books. 


I sincerely hope I've done the reader and my characters justice with Covenant. Like every author I know that once it's out there, a line is drawn and there's no going back. Frankly, I'm looking forward to it!


Coming soon...


6 comments:

  1. I think it's inspiring that you went back to an old book like this, I would almost be afraid to read some of my old writing for fear of how terrible it would seem to me now. Congratulations on Covenant! I'm looking forward to reading it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi, Julie. Yes, it's been a long journey for Covenant. And the story developed along the way to incorporate more mystical elements that were only hinted at in the early drafts. The reader feedback along the way (I sent them monthly chapters through email) helped to convince me that there was a viable readership and responses from agents and editors all helped to keep the flame alive. In a way, it's easier for me now, as I have other books I'm working on. So if Covenant isn't well received, it's not the end of the world. And I know that I've done my best with it.

    Of course, the big question is what happens is what happens to the sequel ( have around 35,000 words in very rough draft)? At what point do I put it together or decide that the party's over?!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think getting the balance right between the ending being satisfying but not wrapping everything up so it's unbelievably neat, is a challenge.

    I also find it hard - at this stage in my "career" - to ever finish writing. As a relatively new and completely untrained writer, I am constantly getting better just through writing. By the time I've finished a novel draft I'm a better writer than when I started. So I write it again, but the same thing happens!

    Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Chloe. I think the writing IS the training! I don't have a degree or any long-term training that's specific to writing, so, like you, I'm finding my own way as I go along. (And, yes, I really like commas!) That's why competitions and submissions and reader feedback are all so important, to give us some objective perspective on our work.

      I've often wondered when visual artists know a piece is finished - especially when it's an abstract. Computers have made it so much easier for writers to revisit and re-edit their work that it's often hard to know when enough is enough. Once we've accommodated the requirements of the genre, it's down to the quality of the writing itself. A glance through Amazon feedback will show you that even 'celebrated' writers have readers who think they can't write for toffee!

      Maybe there needs to be an international standard for self-initiated edits - five drafts maximum?

      Delete
  4. Two, no three points made briefly on reading this (brevity because short of time having been away for two weeks) First is a sort of congratulation, approval, amazement at your returning to a long-ago written book, because I am interested to see that my older ones, while far from perfect, do not insist I re-write but rather that the next one be better.
    Second, I finished on the plane on the way home Cormac McCarthy's 'Blood Meridian' - utterly amazing in the poetry of its language, horrific in what such words describe, but the point is that the ending left me with a dropped-jaw sense of 'what?' and an unease that I might be really thick for failing to 'get' it. Not sufficient to prevent me reading more but not a good way to finish a book.
    And the third, big-headed sounding but surely one ought to write what one enjoys reading, is that much of the time I DO like reading my books.
    Just commenting because I always enjoy reading what you have to say and there is a feeling that not to comment smacks of bad manners.
    Thanks Derek.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks for you comments, Sandra. There are several reasons why I'm self-pubbing Covenant and one of the major ones has to be that the technology is there now to make it relatively pain free. I'd also run out of editors and agents despite believing in it as a book. It's an unusual combo of fantasy quest and established mysticism, so it may yet find a following in one or both of those camps.

    I too have read books and come away scratching my head. I'm still not sure what that says about the author or me. I once dropped a book in the bath while I was reading it and considered that an act of mercy.

    ReplyDelete