Jeannine Atkins: The Middle of an Ending
There were about twenty minutes last week when I thought I’d finished writing my novel. I knew I’d go back to edit, but I felt the thrill of finishing for at least the length of time it takes to down a late summer beer. It was long enough to wonder why people cheer for you when you finish writing – not to suggest they shouldn’t, but when you really want that chorus and hurrahs is during the long, long middle of getting there. Maybe I guessed my private celebration would change, as I didn’t make giddy announcements, just a quiet, “Done,” maybe with a question mark, to Peter, absorbed in his own thoughts at the table on the porch.
I got back to work pretty quickly going on what I was calling a final pass. You might think I know better, and I do, but I guess I wanted to keep that light ta-da feeling a little longer. Sure enough, excising some dialogue, polishing descriptions, the holes and shine made way for new thoughts. I’m trying not to fill every excavated paragraph and add only at dramatic moments. But the process which I began calling editing is looking more like writing. The manuscript I giddily called done isn’t looking like a first draft, but there are rough edges at the ends of sentences and scenes.
It’s all for the good. I still harbor thoughts of sending this to my agent before the leaves fall; and I’m not counting the brown leaves that cling to oaks. We’ll see. What I’ve come to know is that every manuscript is as individual as a person, each with its own quixotic needs. And the good part is that I don’t feel the removed attitude of a good editor, but that the people in my work are important friends, who need me a little longer.