by Sharon Lathan
I am thinking we would all agree that one of the high points in writing our stories is to type "The End" in bold print at the bottom of that final page. Maybe it is just me, but I always flash onto the scene in Romancing the Stone when Joan Wilder types those words - on a real typewriter no less - and is dissolving into tears while searching high and low for a tissue. I love that scene! Of course, until recently it was just a humorous moment in a movie with no relationship to my life. Now I have typed those words a few times, most recently two days ago. And let me tell you, it is a fabulous feeling!
Of course, we know that just because we type "The End" it really isn't the end. We will read it over a few more times before we click the attach and send buttons. We will add a little bit here, take away something there, find some typo or misspelled word, all before we are satisfied enough to turn it over to our editor. And then it will be picked over by a series of editors (praise God!) who will find more sentences and paragraphs or - heaven help us - whole sections or chapters that need to be rehashed. Hopefully it will not be too agonizing and the finished, published product will not vary too much from what we submitted.
Yet for all the work that is ahead of us before that shiny bound novel is in our hot little hands, the real challenge is going from a vague concept in our head that starts with some "It was a dark and stormy night" catchy beginning sentence to typing "The End." When we get there we aren't fretting over the work to come. Rather we are leaping for joy at the incredible sense of accomplishment. Like Joan Wilder we are overcome with emotions.
I have typed "The End" after four novels with surging emotions each time. Relief, happiness, satisfaction, giddiness, touches of fear and doubt, and a whole lot more that I am not sure there are names for. The journeys from inception to completion differed and the challenges varied along the way, making each process special. But for me the prior undertakings were similar in many respects whereas this recent “The End” came after a totally unique experience in several fundamental ways.
First off, I was writing a novella. Early in my writing endeavors I wrote two short stories that have now been incorporated into the whole of my saga. I suppose that gave me some experience. However, this time I had a specific word count to keep in mind and that was a very new phenomenon for me. It is one thing to dream up a great story and jot down a hazy outline, and another thing entirely to pull it off within an allotted boundary! “Anywhere from 20-30,000 words” sounds like loads of wiggle room until you get down to those final few thousand and realize you have so much left to say. Yikes!
Secondly, I was given a particular theme to write about. Actually, this was the easiest part for me. My wonderful editor, Deb Werksman, approached me for a Darcy Christmas themed novella that is to be part of an anthology released next year. She was receptive to any direction I wanted to take as long as Christmas and the Darcys were in there somewhere. Oh my! The possibilities are endless when one thinks about it! Yet at the same time for me this was a first: Being asked to write within a specific topic. But since Christmas is my favorite holiday and I had already written of the Darcys celebrating Christmas twice, it was easy for me to come up with ideas. Perhaps too easy! I needed to rein in the numerous thoughts and keep it cohesive with its own plotline.
Third, I was writing under a deadline for the first time. I know, I know.... Many of my writer friends are going to heave rotten tomatoes smack on my head for that one! Sorry!! But for me this was a unique experience. And one I am not sure I liked! Yes, it was good to have that discipline, I have discovered. When Deb broached the subject way back in June, getting a mere 30,000-word novella done by the end of the year (or Nov. 19 as it ended up) sounded like AGES away. No problemo! Heck, I had nearly half of it written before Nationals in July! So what happened? Well, there were vacations to take, conferences to attend, family crisis to deal with, blogs to write, a book to launch, and that pesky RL job to show up for. Oh, and family! Yep, they require some attention! Suddenly that looming date circled in bright red on my calendar was creeping closer and closer. The upside is that I learned to buckle down and get serious, even if that meant turning off the email alert and Facebook chat!
Fourth, my novella was the first undertaking after the release of my debut novel. Somehow the expectations felt different. Maybe most of that was in my head, but with what I hope is a long career stretching out ahead of me and with readers potentially waiting anxiously for the next Sharon Lathan written story (Hey, I can dream!), I felt a keen sense of pressure to perform. Ha, performance anxiety! Something none of my male characters will ever suffer from, but I was occasionally flustered by this annoying voice in the back of my head yammering at me. Sometimes that voice sounded like the critics, sometimes it was my editor, sometimes it was my praising fans, and sometimes it was my own doubt and indecision. Valid or not, like it or not, gone are the days of writing blithely only for my pleasure. I do have others to consider beside myself. *sigh
Yet, as I stare at the typed “The End” to my 29,957-word novella that I have titled, “Reflections of Christmas at Pemberley,” I am satisfied. I really love it! I am confident that Deb will love it and feel it fits perfectly into the themes for this anthology. I know my faithful fans will adore it. I have hope that new readers will smile at the glimpses of Christmas with Jane Austen’s beloved characters that I have given them. And I no longer fret over the critics! LOL! Whatever hair-ripping work may be ahead of me, I have accomplished something remarkable in reaching The End.
Tell me how it felt for you! Your best experience in writing or most celebratory The End you typed.
**On a side note:
This Thursday, Oct. 22, I will be at the Hanford library for the Friends of the Library Author's Chat. Naturally I shall be talking about The Darcy Saga and my journey as a writer. Plus, I will be signing books. If in the area, stop by for fun and refreshments at 7pm.
And, if anyone is in the Sacramento area over this coming up weekend, be sure to swing by the Citrus Heights Barnes & Noble on 6111 Sunrise Blvd. between 11am to 3pm on Saturday, Oct. 24 to see Loucinda McGary and me, along with several other fabulous Valley Rose romance novelists, at our joint book signing. Not only will it be tremendous fun, but it is a fund raiser for area public schools so also a worthy cause. Loucinda and I hope to see you there!