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Temporary Closure…

When I was a kiddie, I always imagined that the feeling of completing a book would be something like Stephen King described in Misery. A glass of Dom Perignon, a single cigarette and a single match, sit back and sigh, content in the knowledge of a job well done.

Sadly, it doesn’t work that way for me. It’s true that I tend to accelerate as I get nearer the end, until eventually I’m spewing out 500 words a second in some kind of crazed literary seizure. This acceleration continues until I crash over the finish line and slump across my keyboard with smoking eyes and fingers worn down to little wiggly stumps. But strangely enough, the feeling when I’m done is never quite the one you’d expect. Instead, I become sort of vacant and indifferent towards my book for a couple of days. This is probably a bit of a mind-reset, I suppose. My brain needs the rest, and all my enthusiasm has run dry, since it all got poured into the finale.

The thing is, for me, a book is complete when it’s printed and bound and in my hands. Until then, I know there’s work to done. Writing those final lines only means I’ve earned a small break until I have to print it out and start editing it. And the finale that I’ve just written will be getting special attention, since I caned through it at the speed of light and no doubt it’s extra sloppy.

So I faff about listlessly for a day or two until I can be bothered to print the book, then I get on to editing it. That’s when I get excited about it again. The process of reading over the parts you wrote six or eight months ago reawakens all that enthusiasm. By then I’ve forgotten all the little details, so I spend my time oohing and aahing at all the cool bits that now seem as if they were written by someone else. (Speaking of Stephen King, he advocates putting your manuscript away for six months after you’ve finished it, just so you can come back at it with an objective eye. It’s good advice if you have the time, but I suspect my editor would feast on my liver if I started up with that.)

During that first edit, I spend most of my time dealing with all the little notes I left myself in the body of the manuscript. Things like ‘GO BACK AND MENTION THIS EARLIER, IDIOT’ and ‘DIDN’T HE GET SHOT IN THE LEG A CHAPTER AGO?’  Stuff like that. But with more swearing. I fix up all the major bits and smooth off the rough edges. I eliminate repetition of words and phrases, and take out all the unnecessary language and overwritten bits. Then it goes to my editor, who pulls me up on all the stuff I tried to get away with. Then I edit it again.

Nowadays it only takes about two proper edits, because I plan out my books much more than I used to. Before, I’d do four or five drafts. By the fifth, my soul would be withered and blackened and I would loathe the book I’d just lovingly crafted. It would take until publication day for me to want to see it again.

The moral of the story? Finishing a book is only the halfway point. Like crossing the finish line of a marathon only to be told that you have to run back to the start again. Except it’s, like, a million times more fun. And I’ve really never seen the point in marathons…

13 Comments

  1. Jadranko says:

    Dear C.,

    How, in this world or the next, can you possibly make every bit of writing sing like a choir of heavenly angels?

    Love,
    J.

  2. Zemira says:

    You should have another contest for us to win a copy of one of those manuscripts with the notes all over the place. 😀 Or just offer one for sale. After all, how many authors can boast that they’ve had fans wanting to buy unedited manuscripts of already published books? I, of course, would be one of those disturbed fans.

    But in all seriousness, a manuscript like that would be very interesting to see. Just to know that even our favorite author berates himself on repeating phrases or continuity issues. ^_^

  3. Raihor says:

    Congrats on hitting the half-way mark of your fun-marathon!

    As for what Zemira said, you can count me as another one of those disturbed fans 😛

    This post has made me want to start continuing my writing again, so I thank you! I have self-discepline problems at the worst of times.

  4. Setrida says:

    Good to know. And I have to agree wtih Raihor– this has motivated me to stop glaring at my documents because I can’t seem to get past whatever conversation I’m stuck on. It’ll all change in editing, so I suppose I can just write some crap and move on, then go back and fix it later.

    And it’s nice to hear that even though I’m sure even your rough drafts are more polished than anything us mere mortals write (:)) you run across those same “I’ve been working on this scene for hours and I just realized it makes no sense in context” problems.

    Marathons = pointless. Seriously. All my friends are runners. And every one of them is insane. I don’t understand it. Sigh…

  5. Meh, those rough drafts aren’t that interesting, to be honest. Now my notebooks, THEY’RE interesting. The incomprehensible script, the crazed scrawls and strange geometric monsters, the weird pidgin language I talk to myself in while I’m plotting out a book, the stream of consciousness that somehow makes sense to me and not to anyone else… I wouldn’t want to know what a psychologist would make of all that.

    @ Jadranko. It’s easy. You just put on a CD of a choir of heavenly angels in the background, and copy it.

  6. Kath says:

    … hrm, now I want to read those notebooks. (Somehow I’ve got this picture of Henry Jones’s Grail Journal in my head – which makes it even cooler.)
    Also, I wouldn’t show my notes to any psychologist, either. They’re full of ducks and comic drawings… T_T

  7. Vivian says:

    What I would give to get my hands on one of your notebooks! That’d be interesting. My notes are always crazed, too, with lots of rants about how stupid I am to even consider such an option as that character in the margins. I’m usually not a very angry person, until I start attempting to write. Plotting it out is the worst…

    And I don’t understand how someone can run a marathon. I can barely stand running three feet.

  8. Madison says:

    Hi!

    Sorry, this comment is probably going to be crazy fan-girl-ish, and is probably going to have nothing to do with the news blog thing, but yeah…

    Feel free to stop reading now =]

    You still reading? Awesome!

    I read The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray and loved it, but my school didn’t have many more of your books in, plus ‘Twilight’ had just got popular (guilty pleasure =] ), and then the school got Malice in a couple of days ago. It got me right back into reading your stuff and so decided, I wonder if Chris Wooding has a website?

    Turns out he does!

    And I was like, “wow! It’s even got up-to-date news posts on here!” Which is cool, because I don’t think any of the author websites I’ve been on have updated recently.

    So yeah, basically, that was me just babbling on. And on about how awesome I’ve decided you are =]]

    (I’ve decided. I don’t get to decide! Stupid Maddie!)

    Love Maddie xx

  9. Alana says:

    If writing books are like running marathons, then i think I shall stick to reading them, since i enjoy them much more that way!! haha 😛

  10. Summer says:

    I love your blog posts. Especially this one! <3

  11. Summer says:

    Also I finished Malice a while back. Loved it-are you working on part two?

  12. Glad you liked it. Part two is all done long ago… I’ve written the Black Lung Captain since then. Publishing works months and years in advance – usually by the time a book comes out, I’ve forgotten what happened in it 😉

  13. Hope says:

    ‘DIDN’T HE GET SHOT IN THE LEG A CHAPTER AGO?’

    I hate those moments.

    I especially hate the moments that are, ‘WASN’T HE SHIRTLESS FIVE SECONDS AGO? WHEN DID HE PUT ON A SHIRT?’ because they are so simple and small and make you feel as though your mind is crumbling into useless, tiny pieces.

    And I think the point in marathons is that there really ISN’T one, generally, but certain people are possessed of this sense of purpose, and those people enjoy running marathons because they enjoy crossing finish lines because what they do is get things DONE.

    And what I do is MAKE SO MUCH SENSE.

    P.S. A great big HA to the choir of heavenly angels bit.

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