Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The End

Often I've asked published authors, How do you know when you're done? I usually get answers like, You just know or Trust your gut. They are well-intentioned answers, but not very helpful as my knowing gut told me I was done after about two drafts. However, my critique group and beta readers said I wasn't.

As I procrastinate plot out my next novel, I have taken to rereading a few of my favorite books on writing. Currently, I'm reading Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird which is helping me overcome my Summer Break Blues. If you've read Anne's book, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't read her book, and you are an aspiring writer, do yourself a favor and read it.

airstream andreas stavroupolos octopus bed
Andreas Stavroupolos’s current abode‚Äîa 1959 Airstream travel trailer
Bird by Bird is not your typical book about writing, it's a book filled with instructions on writing and life. In fact there's even a chapter tilted, How Do You Know When You're Done. (Somehow I missed that chapter the first time I read the book. Probably because back then, I was far from being done.) In this chapter Anne equates the process of solving final draft problems to putting an octopus to bed. An image used by addicts when referring to controlling their addictions. As I read Anne's description explaining how as soon as you finally get all those arms, plot, character, voice, etc., tucked under the sheets and head to turn off the light, another long sucking arm breaks free. The analogy made me laugh as I thought about my own journey of putting my octopus to bed. It also reminded me that all writers struggle with finalizing that final draft, however, according to Anne, in The End, know you're done when you've run out of steam..., and that it's the very best you can do for now--well? I think this means you are done.

Have you finished a novel before? Was it like putting an octopus to bed? Did you know octopus have arms not tentacles?


Liz A. said...

When I thought I was finished the last time, I didn't feel like that. I guess I still felt like it wasn't quite there. And it wasn't. I feel like I'm on the last draft now, and my writing group is only finding little things, so I might be right.

Melissa Marsh said...

I've finished five novels - and I have wanted to go back and edit all of them. At some point, you just have to let it go, knowing that you have done your best, that it will NEVER be perfect as perfection simply doesn't exist! :)

cleemckenzie said...

I often write the end first, then when I get there, there's no doubt in my mind that I'm finished. Good luck with your writing.

Debra McKellan said...

I did NOT know an octopus has arms. lol But yes, that's a very good analogy and advice. I'll have to look into that book!

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