In know this seems like a silly question, but how do you know when you’ve come to the end of your book?
I know there are writers out there who plan everything down to the last detail; an elegant narrative arc, what happens in each chapter and, probably, the final sentence. I understand it involves index cards and post-it notes – lots of post-it notes, in carefully chosen colours. They probably have notebooks as well which they carry everywhere and leave beside the bed at night, to catch every waking thought.
I’ve tried it – I have a lovely collection of blank notebooks and my post-it notes record only illegible phone messages.
I started my book by accident. It emerged from a writing exercise and continued at random. If my protagonist goes on a journey, do I have him leave, then arrive at his destination in the next paragraph? Let’s have him meet someone on the journey, just to add a bit of excitement. I end up with a visit to Anglo-Saxon London, an orgy and a character who may appear in a future book.
I thought I had an ending, but was encouraged to carry on.
Recently I knew I was getting towards the end. I had a big scene, violent and emotional, that I had been mulling over for some time. Could I transfer it onto the page? I managed to get something down. Only another scene and then something to tie up the loose ends. I wasn’t quite sure about the final words, but I was sure something would emerge as I wrote.
Last week was end of term at the writing class. We had to bring something to read out. I took my “big scene”. I didn’t read out the whole scene, time was short, but quoted in passing the last few lines. Someone asked if that was the end. I said it was the end of that chapter, but there was more before the end of the book.
Afterwards this conversation nagged at me. Suddenly I realised that they were right – that was the end of the book!
The extra scenes, that I was about to write, would be the perfect start for the next book.
So there I was, the book was finished and I hadn’t even realised. I sit here now, preparing to start editing. I’m sure a lot will change. I will discover my sparkling prose is not as wonderful as I thought and my “darlings” will be bloodily massacred. Does that orgy scene progress the plot or is it only self-indulgence? As they say – Watch this Space!
And those final words? (With names removed to protect the
“You should have killed him.”
“I know. But he used to be our friend.”