Tell Me Again How We Get to “The End?”

Homer end is nearThis week at the Deb Ball, we’re talking about drafts. And as much as I’d like to say I have a methodology, it’s really just a mess. As Deb Ball reader Anthony mentioned a few days ago in the comments, you don’t really learn to write novel. You just learn to write the novel you’re working on now. At least that’s how it goes for me.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. Ever the plotter, I do all the things. The character sketches, the outline (my current one is 42 pages), the mulling, the three-act arc, all of that jazz. But here’s the thing I don’t have: discipline. Unlike the awesome Karma, I don’t have a safe, set writing time and space.

My point is to find time you can protect, so you get your words down every day.

What I’m saying is, each draft is different. When I’m working with Dhonielle on the ballerinas, I can churn out chapters in the course of a couple of hours, because I know we’ll spend more time revising that drafting. So it’s all about getting the bones down.

My current work-in-progress? Not so much. I’ve written and rewritten the first 127 pages (I checked) about 15 times. And now my plan is to plow forward and finish the draft before I go back and let myself tinker with the beginning again. Because if I’ve learned one thing in my process on four books and counting, it’s that tinkering spells a long, slow death for any manuscript. I like novelty, and that means getting the bones down as fast as you can and then going back. At least in theory. Because the bottom line is, while I’m longing to get back to my WIP, I probably won’t until July or August. There’s just too much other stuff cooking before then.

Oh, and that’s the other thing. I’m a reluctant multi-tasker. Because we’ve got a lot happening with CAKE and we’re in the midst of wrapping up book two of the ballerinas, I can’t get back to WIP. I can open the file, look at it longingly, type a random sentence or two. But then I have to get back to the task at hand. And that book doesn’t deserve that. It deserves complete, loyal attention. So I refuse to two-time it. Because over the course of five years of writing fiction (and many years of writing screenplays before that), I’ve realized on thing: if I want to get to those ever-coveted words — the end — I have to give the book the focus that it deserves.

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An entertainment and lifestyle journalist published by The New York Times, People, ABC News, MSN, Cosmopolitan and other major national media, SONA CHARAIPOTRA currently curates a kickass column on YA books and teen culture for Parade.com. A collector of presumably useless degrees, she double-majored in journalism and American Studies at Rutgers before getting her masters in screenwriting from New York University (where her thesis project was developed for the screen by MTV Films) and her MFA from the New School. When she's not hanging out with her writer husband and two chatter-boxy kids, she can be found poking plot holes in teen shows like Twisted and Vampire Diaries. But call it research: Sona is the co-founder of CAKE Literary, a boutique book development company with a decidedly diverse bent. Her debut, the YA dance drama Tiny Pretty Things (co-written with Dhonielle Clayton), is due May 26 from HarperTeen. Find her on the web at SonaCharaipotra.com or CAKELiterary.com.

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This article has 2 Comments

  1. So true, Sona! I have to give a book my full attention to get to the end as well. This explains the current state of my house.

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