Thought-Provoking Thursdays: On The Loss Of Finishing Stories

Sigh.

Sometimes finishing a story is like losing a friend. I’ve had the experience when I’ve read other’s books, and I’m sure you know the feeling too. You just read through some serious action-y stuff, things have started to work themselves out in the plot, and now you’re getting to those last few pages. You knew this moment would come. The realization set in for you when your bookmark was exactly midway between the front and back. You tried to put it out of your mind, but now you have to face facts. You have to say goodbye to Richard, the character you related most with, and his clumsy ways. You can’t step into that colorfully-described herb garden anymore. You can never live this story for the first time ever again.

Literary Herb Garden
“I remember when Richie tripped over that pot of basil and dirt went all over the floor. Dammit Richie, I’m gonna miss you ya klutz! And that rosemary always smelled so invigorating…”

It’s an emotional transition for a reader, but I think even moreso for a writer. While readers can get through a given book in any time between a day and a month, writers often spend years working on a story. So while it may be like losing a friend for the reader, for the writer it can even be like losing a part of his or herself.

I started writing my debut novella, Forget Me, in September of 2014. This was back when it was called Here For A Reason or, as I lovingly referred to it, HFAR. I had the actual idea for some time before that September, but that was the month I got started on the first successful draft. I remember that my family and I were staying in a cabin in Seaside Heights, NJ. We were on vacation, but that didn’t change the fact that I was a writer with a story to tell. I started to give life to Sabine (my MC) right in my cramped little bedroom on my dinky little netbook computer, probably with sand still between my toes. Flash forward to the first days of January 2015, and I typed the last sentence of draft number one. And you know what I did? I cried. Happy tears, of course. This was the first story I saw all the way to the end, the first one I hadn’t abandoned halfway through because the plot bored me to death. It was a huge step for me; I finished something. I was an actual writer.

I’ve since taken that story through six edits (for a total of seven drafts), and even given it to test readers. I’ve removed characters, added characters, brought some characters more to the foreground and pushed others to the back. Changed relationships. Added tension. Deepened personalities. Learned to let characters do whatever they wanted to (especially Bridget—because boy, was she hard to restrain). Jesse (Sabine and Bridget’s youth pastor) really began to come to life as I went through the drafts. Even Sabine’s parents, Janet and Patrick, took on lives of their own as the years went by.

They’re mine. It’s mine. The ride has been like nothing I’ve ever experienced in my life. There’s one thing that hasn’t really sunken in yet, though I’m sure it will once things are squared away with my editor and everything is finalized for my imprint, Quiet Fire Books. There is going to be a final draft. The day is coming when I won’t have the opportunity to describe nature through Sabine’s eyes anymore. I’ll never get to revisit Hilltop Church again, at least not in writing mode. Everything will be in print, and it will be final. It’s like losing a part of myself, people and places that have existed in my mind for years.

*sighs…*

But it’s not all bad. What’s the point of putting all this effort into writing a story if you’re never going to share it with the world? You can’t rewrite forever, that would be pointless. Yes, I feel the loss, but I’m also psyched to share something with you that I’ve put about three years of heart into. I’m excited to open up a dialogue with you. Eager to hear what you think of my world.

I imagine that there are numerous writers who have experienced the loss I currently am. If they didn’t cope with the heaviness it left in their hearts and let you see their glorious works, just think of all the stories our eyes would have never seen. From what I’ve seen, it is so worth it. So I’m okay. Jubilant, even. Because now that the journey is ending for me, it’s just starting for you. I so hope you will take it.

 

Front Cover Only--Forget Me, Chelsea Vanderbeek

 

So, stay tuned! I’m planning the release of my debut novella, Forget Me, in late April. Also, hop on over to my author Facebook page for updates on my releases and other fun stuff!

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