Beginning at the End

A few weeks ago I wrote “The End” on a manuscript for the first time. It’s not the first novel that I’ve written, but it’s the first novel in which I’ve actually written the final scene. I usually know what the final scene is before I even begin to write the book; it’s what I’m writing to get to. So when I get to that point in the draft where I know everything else that happens, when I’ve written up to that last scene, if the book doesn’t actually feel done, I stop writing. I’ve been using that scene like a cupcake – it’s the reward I’ll earn when the book is really, truly done. With this latest manuscript, however, I really wanted to write that scene, even if I had to make myself do it. And I really did have to push myself into it. But when I finally did it, it was the most exhilarating feeling. Seeing the characters come all the way to the end, writing their final words and actions, made me feel so warm and fuzzy inside the I was grinning about it for days afterward.

Now that’s not to say the book is done. Far from it. I’ve taken a few weeks off from the MS with the intention of writing something else, but try as I might I can’t get this book out of my head. In the last few weeks I’ve gotten so many ideas for how to rework the story – places where I can go deeper into the characters, where I can push them further, and push the story further. With previous manuscripts where I didn’t write the final scene, I’ve felt undone, like I’m in a never-ending first draft. But by writing that last scene it’s as if I’ve given myself permission to rethink the entire book. I may have written “The End” but really I’m at a new beginning.

This past Tuesday I participated in SCBWI-WWA’s The Great Critique, where writers break out into small groups to give and receive feedback on the first five pages of their manuscripts. Each group is lead by a published author. The first five pages of this latest MS have been critiqued so many times that I didn’t think I’d hear anything new, but it turns out I got some really great suggestions. And so begins the next phase of my writing. To fix, to go deeper, and to make better.

Do you write “The End” or have a ritual that moves you out of draft mode and into revision mode?

And since I haven’t said it yet, welcome to my blog. :)