We’re done! Sort of. Or, on writing the last chapter in a book

I had a weird experience a couple of days ago. I finished a book.

Nope, I’m not quite as illiterate as that. And yes, I already have, in theory, a book all finished and in my name(Shadow Run, read all about it!). But I co-wrote it with the illustrious author AdriAnne Strickland, and the basic structure was that we alternated chapters. I wrote the first (well, the first draft of many tortured incarnations), and she wrote the last.

Because I am unfairly blessed, I got a chance to repeat the process as we wrote the sequel to Shadow Run. This sequel is great! You will love it, because there are spaceships, planets, nobility, swords, battles, romantical moments, and general tomfoolery. And hopefully you will like the last chapter, because this time, I wrote it.

If you have ANY tendency to punt decisions on how to resolve a story thread, there is nothing quite like the mass of a last chapter regarding you idly to know your chickens have returned to the roost, ready to lay eggs of karmic vengeance.

Somehow, I managed to pound out what I thought was a pretty smooth resolution to the most pressing matters, cleverly punt a few more (Sequels only came into being because authors can’t admit that no, they didn’t have a plan on how to end any of it. It just seemed like a cool idea at the time, okay?), and provide a nice little bow.

Feeling pleased with myself, I checked in with AdriAnne to make sure I hadn’t missed any major plotpoints. Formality, if you will.

That was when all those eggs hatched. Oh yes, just two plot threads. That’s all. Possibly the most major ones!

So, a full week of chopping and hacking and adding and crying and staring with red rimmed eyes later, we got something done.

And it turns out, it’s a weird feeling. It’s a weird feeling to realize you’ve put a finish on the story, said ‘here, really, is where this part of the story ends.’ If we feel the emotions of our characters as we write them––and I do, particularly the ones where they are epic and cool, of course––then it’s hard not to sense that something significant has happened.

Of course, that last sentence that you type isn’t the end of the work. You start right from the beginning, first round of revisions. That same chapter will doubtless change many more times. The whole story might morph, shift.

Rather than be disheartening, I wonder if that isn’t where the power in writing lies. Something lives inside of us, an experience that wants to be told. We could spend a lifetime trying to do it justice in words, but that’s because it’s so very vividly there.

Everything in life has an end, but it’s in a loop. When a story ends, as a writer we listen to it and try to tell it better. When we read it, we revisit it again to understand how we felt it. When we end, whatever we’ve done echoes on in others. We’re all storytellers that way.

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