Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Last Chapter

After months of writing, it is time for the last chapter. For me, this time is always a mixed bag of emotions. I have been working at a frenzied pace for a month, writing seven days a week. I’ve stared at the computer screen until I’ve seen double, but couldn’t let go of the plot’s building crescendo.

The last chapter is like a descent from a mountain. One should do it slowlyadjust to the feeling of breathing 100 % oxygen again. I can never do this successfully. I race to the end, take a quick breath, and then leap into revisions. This is mostly due to the deadline hanging over my head, but one day I’d like to savor the moment of the last sentence.

The last chapter also means that the book is about to leave the author’s hands. It will be read by a team of people who then share their thoughts and opinions on everything from the title to the plot to the setting. And the author isn’t present.

From there, the editors get to work. They question line after line of writing and as the author answers the questions and makes changes, the book begins to change. Sometimes radically! Usually these changes are for the better, but it’s like sending your Kindergartener on the bus in the morning only to have him return from school that afternoon as a 4th grader. It can be startling.

So this is the week of the last chapter. This week, the book truly belongs to me. I’ve given it the best of me for the last six months. I’ve shaped it and agonized over it and cursed it and laughed at it. These 85,000 words, these characters I love, this product that has filled my days and my thoughts is mine.

At least until Friday at five o’clock.

Have you ever had trouble letting go of something you made?


Lisa Bork said...

Congratulations on reaching the last chapter! That takes hard work and dedication--and, yes, love. And no matter who adds or deletes or tweaks afterwards, it will still have your name on it and be uniquely yours, just like a child. And it's always hard letting go of a child...but rewarding, too.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Congrats on finishing, J.B.!

I always cry at the end of my books. Sometimes because the ending makes me cry. But often the pressure of simply ending it starts the waterworks.

Loved your analogy of the kid going to school.

G.M. Malliet said...

Do you generally know what the last chapter is going to be like?

jbstanley said...


I knew the ending for this one the day I started. I really wanted to give my hero a gift and I knew how I wanted the news delivered. I was smiling when I wrote his reaction. If only we could create that magic for ourselves, huh?

Paul Lamb said...

When I wrote the last words of the last sentence of the last chapter of the first draft of my novel, I really expected to feel elation. I didn't. I felt exhaustion.

I think part of this is due to the fact that I'd known the last sentence from about the 2nd chapter, so I'd rehearsed it in my head for a long time. It lost its punch for me. Also, I am currently going through the 2nd rewrite of the story, and I know I have at least one more ahead of me before I consider it ready to begin submitting.

Thus I don't feel the closure yet. Though in another sense I do. I've been getting a flood of ideas for stories and chapters in subsequent novels that I can't seem to scribble down fast enough. I guess the creative/constructive part of that first novel is now completed at least.