Typing “THE END” and the self-edit process

A lot of writers don’t type “THE END” after finishing a first draft. Ah, but it’s so nice and dramatic. So Hollywood. And so I do, in all caps with spaces between the letters. Some old school writers perhaps type – 30 -, a signal to the imagined printing staff that the machine has actually finished spewing out the book, that the printer has rolled out the last page. But whatever the writer does, we all know it’s just the beginning of a different process.

Lately we’ve all been rushing to Facebook to proclaim, hurray, just finished writing the first draft. That’s a new step in the process. And then all our writing friends offer some congratulatory remarks which are great and needed to steel ourselves for the next stages which may involve “critiquing” or really telling the writer where she went wrong which can be a bit of a downer.

I left the book for the weekend. Today, step one was to reread the last chapter because I tend to rush the dramatic scenes much in the same way as I read: I gulp the passages. My first bitsy edit was to paint in more details to slow it down a bit.

Next, something new, I’m going to get Tara, the South African voice, to read the first chapter and last together.

In the past I’ve always read those chapters silently to myself. I want to make sure I end the same book that I started, that somehow the beginning and end provide a good frame for a strong story.

After that, I reread the whole book, hopefully in as close to one sitting as life allows me. After another week or so of fidgeting with the manuscript, when I’m satisfied that there is consistency and continuity in character details and plot, and when I’m happy with my second coat of details, I need to forward it to a writing partner. Usually Gisela Sherman (Grave Danger) or Lynda Simmons (Island Girl). Depending on their response I rewrite and forward it the partner who hasn’t read the first draft.

There are times when a book goes totally wrong along the way. Then I rewrite and ask all kinds of different people to look at it. I try to save young test readers for last.

So I guess I should really write:

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T H E B E G I N N I N G

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When do you find time to write? Joanne Levy’s Small Medium at Large Launch

Saturday, instead of writing, I enjoyed lunch with Wendy Whittingham, illustrator of Miss Wondergem’s Dreadfully Dreadful Pie by Valerie Sherrard and then together we headed off to Joanne Levy’s launch of Small Medium at Large at Bryan Prince’s Book Store in Hamilton.

Try to spot all the famous writers in this audience. I see Gillian Chan and Patricia Storms. Somewhere else milling about is Jocelyn Shipley and Lynda Simmons.

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Wendy Whittingham’s the one in the white shirt and long brown hair. After the reading she wanted to ask Joanne some questions. One of the most interesting was “When do you find time to write?”

Now the answer should be easy. If you’re a full time writer, no outside job to take you away, you just get up and write all day.

But the real truth is the person who stays at home inherits most of the household tasks, waiting for the repairman who doesn’t show when he/she’s supposed to and interrupts every two minutes when he/she does. Looking after the sick child or spouse or parent. Feeding the family. Cleaning up after the feed. Walking the dog. Putting the laundry away. Keeping the house in order. Getting the car serviced.

Add to that your own personal maintenance program: exercise, hygiene, doctor and dentist appointments.

But let’s face it, most people even if they don’t write or work from home have to find away to do all this too. So writers claim to struggle with all these time demands when they’re off galavanting to their friends’ book launches.

What writers really need to do if to find a solitude in which to write. If you need total quiet, then you need to pack yourself off to the library where there’s usually even free wireless. If you need white noise, a hubbub that doesn’t involve you, you can go to the coffee shop. A friend of mine likes to hide herself at her cottage for a few weeks to work full throttle near about the middle of a project.

My secret is that I’m an opportunist. (Oh yeah and I can ignore any of the afore mentioned time suckers,
house cleaning especially.) I have the good fortune and focus to be able to write on planes, in cars and in short snatches of time, for example while waiting for supper to go up in flames.

So my advice to Wendy and all creators: steal the time. Make a list of all the things you have to do and pick out which ones you will ignore until you have a couple of hours to write. Switch this list around a bit so that if Monday you ignore your spouse, Tuesday you should ignore your kids or your mother, Wednesday you should forget about showering, dressing and your trip to the gym. Thursday don’t clean the kitchen or make your bed (easily an hour there), Friday don’t cook, that can be your diet day since you neglected exercise on Wednesday. Saturday head for your friend’s book launch. Sunday–that’s your day of rest–you can fulfill all the other demands of your life and forget writing.

Good luck.

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