Posted by: jeannineatkins | November 24, 2009

Getting to an End. Really! Really?

Since I put my manuscript into big envelopes for my writing group yesterday, I’ve made some notes about changes I need to make. But I’m calling this the end of a pretty polished draft. It enjoyed working with those last fifty pages, having a nice pile beside me that I poked and prodded now and then, taking out or adding sentences. I feel ready to do more shuffling after my writing group meets, but I’m also making notes about my next project.

And I get to give the novel to my husband, who’s heard about it for so long, who’s watched me at the computer, doing what? He said, “I know it will be good. The only question is will it be good enough for you?”

Last night I happened to be reading Zadie Smith’s Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays, which includes a wonderful talk she gave at Columbia about writing. She writes: “Who can find anything bad to say about the last day of a novel? It’s a feeling of happiness that knocks me clean out of adjectives. I think sometimes that the best reason for writing novels is to experience those four and a half hours after you write the final word.” (p.107)

Yes, that was fun: and just in time to hit the grocery stores for a turkey and start thinking about pie.I can knit, and repot the African violets, and stick the paperwhite bulbs into gravel. I can read, get past the first three chapters of A.S. Byatt’s scarily thick but intriguing The Children’s Book; maybe this will be the winter I read the final (okay, for me that means four) volumes of Harry Potter. And planning out a new project is kind of delicious, too.

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Responses

  1. Wow! Woweeeee! I can’t even begin to imagine how wonderful this must feel. In fact, I’m guessing nobody but other writers would ever understand the significant accomplishments (and sustained efforts) this represents.
    My deepest admiration and heartfelt congratulations. You are a beacon for the rest of us.

  2. Oh, yes, what a feeling. Enjoy it, Jeannine!

  3. What a joyous feeling. Many congratulations, Jeannine.
    This quote from your husband: “I know it will be good. The only question is will it be good enough for you?” got me right where I live. What a good guy.
    Enjoy your accomplishment (and thanks for the Zadie Smith tip; I hadn’t heard of that book) and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  4. Thank you Melodye! Though you can begin to imagine…
    I think you’re right that only other writers, and maybe those who live with us, can understand what we’ve been to get to write those small words; The end. (even if not on the ms!) Thanks for being such great company through it all. Not that the end is really an end. I sat across the table from Jo a few weeks ago when she smacked down the last page of her revision, and we clinked tea mugs, but… it was with more of a sense of accomplishment than finality. The circle keeps on moving, and that’s not so bad.

  5. Thanks! I hope you get to enjoy the feeling soon, Loree!

  6. Hovering near the end has its own pleasures, and I hope you’re enjoying that Tracy. I’m feeling ready to do a shout out for you soon though.
    The recent Zadie Smith collection is pulled together with book and movie reviews, some this and that which wasn’t all of much interest, but the piece on her writing process is brilliant and funny (I liked a line about here’s my most important piece of advice, which I haven’t yet taken.)

  7. Ah, what a great feeling of satisfaction! Congratulations, Jeannine, I’m so happy for you. And you’re my inspiration this morning (and many other mornings too) as I try to find my way through this stubborn chapter.
    Enjoy that lovely feeling and have a wonderful holiday!

  8. Congratulations on finishing the book! I’m sure it’s going to be great. It’s such a delicious feeling to be done–like a long, cat-like streeetch. Enjoy immersing yourself in those projects, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  9. We should have had t shirts made this summer: chapter 13? chapter 17? (Turn it inside out). I’m glad I can be an inspiration on getting by, though I won’t swear I won’t yet find myself back. I think I was sticking on 16 and 17 a while because the too many plot threads I’d tossed got tangled there. When I went back to the beginning, deciding on a main thread, I slipped through those chapters more easily.
    Happy thanksgiving!

  10. Thanks, Erin, for your congratulations and thanks. It was fun writing a bit of it with you around and the gorgeous lake. Cat-like sounds perfect. Made it through grocery store madness today and hope to fiddle with pages and read and have a relaxing Thanksgiving (I go to the kitchen during the political fights; and I know the in laws will have something to say about the chai squash soup my friend is bringing. but what’s a holiday for?) Have fun with the chicken and gang.

  11. What a wonderful feeling! I think I am going to be writing a Sci-Fi war book, because little bits of dialogue keep coming out of my fingers on the keyboard. It is weird.
    I’m making apples pie, an artichoke hearts with crumb topping side dish I found in Martha Stewart Living last year (I like her! She really went to Jail because she didn’t contribute to Republican campaigns as well as Democratic ones.) And cranberry sauce. We are going to someone else’s house this year. Last year we had it out here on the riverbank. Too tired this year. And I just found out I have shingles… Got the shot last year. Guess it didn’t work.
    Anyhow, I am so glad you are happy and feeling done.

  12. Hee hee, this reminds me that when I got the first copy of my book, I handed it to my husband and said, “This is what I’ve been doing in my writing office all this time.” :-)!
    Congratulations!!!!!

  13. You sound like a perfect guest bringing wonderful things: artichoke hearts sound fabulous! I’m so so sorry to hear about the shingles. And the failure of the shot to prevent. Thanks for your good wishes and I hope you have a good holiday — and good luck with the novel!

  14. It is amazing what all that time at the keyboard can at last hopefully turn into. I’m happy you have something great to show for your time, and I’m hoping this finds its way off my lap and into real covers in time.
    Happy thanksgiving, Jenn!

  15. Happy Thanksgiving to you, too!

  16. Wow! Good for you! Enjoy it all.

  17. Glory be! I’m so happy for you, Jeannine. And so glad that I got to share a little bit of that revision with you in Concord.
    I’m still a long way off being done, but the work is very satisfying. And the lovely paperwhites you gave us are planted and sitting in the cool dark downstairs. Maybe by the time they bloom I’ll be finished with this draft?

  18. I love your husband’s insight into your thought behind finishing. He is such a gem!
    Congratulations on reaching the end. I’m looking forward to hitting that point again too, sometime!
    And now I have that song from Oklahoma stuck in my head. . .
    Oh what a beautiful morning
    Oh what a beautiful day
    I’ve got a beautiful feeling . .

  19. Oh I hope you’ll be finished with the draft by the the paperwhites bloom! I’m cheating with the “done” word just a bit, shifting a few things around on the sly, but the sentences are sentences and the paragraphs are paragraphs so there is some feeling of accomplishment.
    And now and then my thoughts are turning to May Alcott, and you come with them, so thank you.

  20. Wishing all good things for you, Susan. Keep singing that beautiful morning song. I have a feeling things are going to turn for you very soon.

  21. Congratulations. And perfect timing. Have a wonderful thanksgiving!

  22. Happy Thanksgiving, Jeannine!

  23. Thanks, Becky. the pre-holiday timing was unplanned but sweet. When my friend Jess asked on a post-dinner walk how my book was going, I felt full of thanksgiving to say: done! (or,you know, done-ish). Enjoy your thanksgving marathon!


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