Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Typing "The End"

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. Our wonderful editor Deb 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.... Several of you 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: 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. Auntie Cindy and I hope to see you there!


  1. Omigosh, I don't think I write The End on most of my stories. I was told once a long time ago if you have to say The End at the end, you haven't done your job. LOL But maybe that was for magazine writing. I don't remember. Congrats on typing the end! And yes, Joan Wilder and Romancing the Stone is one of my all time favorites. And by the way, with a name like that, she's really a red werewolf in disguise. :)

  2. I never write "THE END" either, but I know it when I get there. The last pages of Slave and Outcast still bring tears to my eyes, and the endings of Warrior and Rogue always make me smile.

    Congrats on the anthology!

  3. I totally forgot about that Romancing the Stone scene. I've only typed 'The End' once and I cried. And now I'm back at the beginning doing all those little wonderful things to tighten it.

  4. You don't type The End? Really? Maybe I have seen too many movies! It just seems natural and fulfilling to me. Plus, on a practical level, I guess I then know the reader won't be scrolling down the page looking for more!

    Good point, Terry. But then I don't look at the words The End as a signal to the reader that it is over. Hmm...

  5. Hi Sharon,
    I feel so uplifted by your post today! Thank you for sharing with us.

    Ah--I'm now working on book number 21 and I always type the end--when I get there! Never knew I was doing it wrong, Terry. :-) And yes, I'll continue to do it because it feels so darn good to type it at the bottom of the last page!


  6. I just wrote The End over the weekend and what a great feeling! Of course, me being me, I couldn't just write The End. Why? Well, in my Mer books, I wrote it in French. Why French? Um, because "end" in French is "fin". I had to go for the pun. So what do I do for a genie book?

    You'll have to read it to find out. :)

    And I LOVE Joan Wilder!!! I recently bought myself the movie since I'm such a sucker for it whenever it shows up on tv I figured I ought to own it.

  7. Thanx for a GREAT post, Sharon!

    And for plugging our upcoming booksigning! ;-)

    I ALWAYS type THE END because it gives me a feeling of satisfaction, of closure, and usually RELIEF! Remember that old commercial? How do you spell relief? T-H-E E-N-D!

    Sharon, I know how you feel. I recently wrote The End to my first book written under contracted deadline. It was a very different kind of challenge, but I loved it. Here's hoping we both get to do that many MANY more times! :-)


  8. Thanks Amelia, Judi, and Cindy - I knew I wasn't the only one who typed The End! And you are right, Auntie, it is that feeling of closure that feels so good.

    Indeed we WILL be doing this MANY more times! Must think positive. :)

  9. I always write The End in big bold letters. That tells me to stop writing. Finishing a book to me is the hardest part because I still want to see what happens next. That's probably why I love writing a series, you get to see what happens next to the characters in the last book.

    Congratulations on writing the end of your book.

  10. Christmas at Pemberley sounds wonderful. I don't think I've ever typed "the end." Used to write it, when I was a kid. And I wrote lots of stories called "the end." Maybe if I ever get published I'll try typing it to celebrate. (Nah, I'll eat chocolate.)