Posted by: jeannineatkins | October 24, 2016


How does one know when a novel is done? There’s some sense that what began as a spark and murk in my mind is clear now, but that conviction is shaky. After months of adding to scenes and rearranging paragraphs, my revision of a novel for middle readers funneled down to deleting sentences and changing some words. This weekend I combed the manuscript for dropped punctuation or explanations. There’s never certainty of success, but I have a sense of being done deep down, close to where the knowledge that here’s- a –novel-I-must write began.

“I’m sad to see these characters go,” I told a friend.

“Can you write about them again?” she asked.

“I’m not that sad,” I replied.

Finishing one book makes an opening for a new one, and that’s always exciting. I have two manuscripts I’ve begun, and the research for one means looking at paintings and reading poetry. Still, there’s some sadness to coming to the end of this round of the first contemporary novel I’ve written, and the first that uses magic. Even when my books about girls or women in history were published, I love revisiting them in other books, museums, or historic sites. And while those books drew both from the past and my personal experience, THE LOST NAME feels true to me in a new way. None of the characters are much like me, and the plot depends more on a fairy tale than anything I’ve ever known. But there’s some knowledge of silence, differences, trust, and family that feels as if it comes from something in my bones.


And it is lovely to send off a manuscript toward the end of golden and green October days. My dog is enjoying his first fall, bouncing along a road he’s galloped and pranced along almost a hundred times already. I’m the one who walks. But yesterday in the woods, in the wind, I did a happy little spin for if not completely-finishing, then coming close.  Finishing is a word I’ve learned to use loosely. But also enjoy, like the leaves that change color one day, then drop the next, opening a wider view. We love what we write, when it’s not making us crazy, and we’re meant to let it go. And move on ourselves, at least until that manuscript returns with its tidings of joy or woe and, in ways we can’t expect now, we get back to work.



  1. True inspiration. I can just see you spinning.

    • Hope you are feeling inspired. And let me know if you want me to pick up that thing I rarely use in the kitchen, which actually has a cord, and talk poetry!

  2. So lovely, Jeannine, that this fiction is true to you. And that you send it off on the energy of an autumn sun.

    • Thanks, Sarah. I don’t know why finishing in fall felt so good. I suppose I might have found good in any season. But what a spectacular fall it has been, so it did feel celebratory!

  3. I love picturing you spinning along the path among those beautiful leaves. For you, leaves of another kind on their way to magically becoming a book. Congrats on sending off The Lost Name!

    • Thanks for the cheer, Jama! I try to keep my spinning quiet, although there is something about the colored leaves that all these years between me and childhood makes me pick them up and pocket them, or now and then skip through piles. But then I am speaking to someone who shares cookies with stuffed bears and such, so need I explain?

  4. “We love what we write, when it’s not making us crazy, and we’re meant to let it go.”

    Yes and yes. Congratulations, Jeannine! (And thank you for sharing those beautiful pictures with us.)

  5. Tracy picked up on the same quotable quote that I tweeted!
    Finishing is never a single moment, but a process … like so much else in writing!

    • Thanks for commenting and tweeting, Jenn! It seems we know circles as children, then get stuck in all the lines and hierarchies — and then return to circles. If we’re lucky. Good luck with yours, and finding endings within them!

  6. “Finishing is a word I’ve learned to use loosely. But also enjoy, like the leaves that change color one day, then drop the next, opening a wider view.” Love this Jeanne, on a day of rejection! Now to remember to see rejection as an opportunity for a wider view!

    Also, we look forward to the finish line, but then there’s that stretch of walking to avoid muscle cramping. Maybe the re-thinking after rejection is like this, too. We keep on a while longer with the manuscript, stretching, expanding plots or character development – getting out the kinks!

    • Rejections are tough, and we all get them. So agree there’s wisdom as seeing them as part of a path back, then coming forward richer. I’ve been there. But we do have to kick some leaves, too, and maybe yell at the cloudsl Everything isn’t fair out there. But so good when you’re ready to find those hiking boots — good wishes to you (and commiserations!)

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