Why is the end never really the end?

Dead End

When a writer types “The End” doesn’t it seem like it should be…well, the end? (assuming, of course, that you do type that, which I don’t. I figure if the reader can’t tell it’s the end, or doesn’t think it’s the end, then I’ve done something wrong or left something unfinished) But if you do, it’s not. Now, there have always been more things to do after you finish a book, but these days, there are more than ever. Some have been around since the first cave man erased part of that drawing on the cave wall to make it better. In my world, that’s called revising.

Eraser

           

 I have never thought of myself as a good writer. But I’m one of the world’s great rewriters.   –James A. Michener

“No, that paragraph shouldn’t be there, it should be back there.” Or, “Uh-oh, I just realized that entire concept for what happens in this scene is made impossible by what happened in that scene. One of them has to go.” Or my favorite, when a character pops up and informs me “Um…hello? I wouldn’t do that. Ever.” Well, you would have when I started this, clownhat.

Pirate musket/Andy Castro via Creative Commons

Pirate musket/Andy Castro via Creative Commons

   

 One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it.     –Anton Chekhov

 

 

Then there’s continuity editing. Yes, your editor will be doing this also, but I prefer to avoid humiliation and do my own first, and hope that I don’t miss anything. There’s nothing like getting a note from said editor asking “So, where did that gun end up, anyway?”

grammar-police-tapeA copyeditor is the type of person who will point out to a police officer that the charge for speeding in a school zone is actually $75, not $50…while they are getting a ticket.           

–Nathan Bransford ( http://blog.nathanbransford.com )

Copy editing. And copy editors. A good one is worth his or her weight in gold, which these days is saying something. A bad one can make your life crazy, and make you stomp about declaring it’s nice that the criminally nit-picky can find work.

crossed eyes

I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.      –Oscar Wilde

Then there’s proofreading. This is the final check of punctuation, dotted i’s and crossed t’s. The reading until it’s your eyes that are crossed. Your last chance to fix grammar. Spelling. All that stuff that made you crazy as a kid when all you wanted to do was tell your story. (You weren’t writing stories when you were five? Slow starter, huh?)

But actually, none of this is my point. (Can you say wordy writer?) What started this off was the realization of what, in today’s writing world, is still left to do after all this is done. Website. Blog. Facebook. Twitter. In other words, I finished a book. Finished the edits, all of them. This morning I finally sent off the final proofreading results. And still, I’m nowhere near done. Am I whining? No, not really. Lots of people would love to have this problem. Do I wish I could just write and have done with it? Sure do. I’m happiest when I’m writing, not doing all the rest.

But I’m also a professional. I’ve survived in this business for a couple of decades now, and I long ago gave up the fantasy that at some point, it would get easier. It doesn’t. So you do what you have to do, accept that at different times your priorities must shift, and sometimes you just put your head down and plow on. Because if you are a writer, it’s what you do.

And remember that the end you get may not always be the end you want, so quit wishing for it. It’ll get here soon enough.

So for now, another case of deadline dementia behind me, I can breathe. At least until tomorrow. When I start the next book.once upon a time

eyes photo credit: JcMaco via photopin cc

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4 thoughts on “Why is the end never really the end?

  1. Trish Jensen says:

    Justine:

    Did I ever tell you about the time that I had my heroine leaving work (in Los Angeles) to make it for her spot on Letterman? Copyeditor wrote: “You DO realize Letterman tapes his show at 5:00 pm…in New York? Fast, fast plane.”

    Practically fell on the floor. Oh, yeah, there is that. 🙂 Had to change it to Leno, who tapes in LA. But totally ruined the set-up for my bald Paul joke. But thank goodness for that copyeditor. 🙂

  2. LOL, Trish! It’s those little details that trip us up. I mean, I do my research, but when you don’t know it needs to be researched…. 😉 A good copy editor is indeed above rubies. More times than I can count they’ve saved me from embarrassment. I’ve had a couple that I’ve requested, over the years.

    But then I had the one who vehemently insisted there was no such thing as a forensic entomologist. I sent back the grossest photo I could find from one who consulted for us once, with a note from him explaining how he knew just how long that body had been there. Strangely, I never heard back from her. 😉

  3. Rosemary Elwell says:

    Oh, research. 🙂 Some revisions that need to be made manage to slip past both author and editor.

    I once read a historical romance, set in the 1700’s where the hero unzipped the heroine’s dress. I can’t believe that one got by.

    I saw a slip-up in another book that could have been caught by a bit more research. In the story, a horse is given an emetic to cure an upset stomach. The problem with that plot line is simple. Horses can’t vomit. Without going into detail, suffice to say that without a vet (or at least someone who knows what they are doing), and some special equipment, what goes down stays down.

    • LOL, Rosemary. Nothing like ripping (or zipping!) the reader right out of the story!

      And yes, anyone who knows about horses would know they can’t rid themselves of problems like that. Hence the cases of colic that can be fatal. And people don’t realize horses aren’t like humans in that the breathing system and the eating system are completely separate, so the horse can’t breathe through it’s mouth. Hence the description of a horse I once read as “panting for breath.” Um…no.

      Thanks for coming by!

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