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I'm in a State of Shock...

Sheesh. This is total rough draft. But I have WRITING to do! Deal. πŸ˜€

I have a last line. This might not seem like a Big Deal, but for me, it is. Every other book, sometime during the middle, the last line of the book…where it was all headed…has come to me. It’s the ultimate “lightbulb moment” of my writing process. I don’t necessarily know how I’m going to get there, but something inside says “this is the end.” Not to say that I haven’t had the last line morph slightly on me or that I haven’t hit the ending sooner than I thought and so had to give up the last line in favor of another…but that scene, that line, whether or not it’s in the book, happens sometime around the end of the book. I can honestly say, I’ve neverΒ ever had to force a book to that ending. It’s not an outline to which I will adhere come hell or high water, it’s just the most magical part of writing to me and I’ve never tried to analyze it, just marveled at it.

I don’t know why that is. But it’s always happened. I think of it as the story percolating on the back burner of my subconscious finally coming to a boil and congealing into a coherent mass giving me an answer to which I now have to find the clues within the pot that lead me inexorably to that end.

The end of a book to me is not an end, it’s the promise of a future. A story isn’t about the end, it’s about the process of getting to the end so a future is possible. (How come all those words begin with “pro”? Hmmmm…. oh…possible doesn’t have an “r”. Whew.)

Needless to say, this had never happened with this book. I’ve known for a couple of months now the “plot” that gets me to then end, but I didn’t have that magical line that set the tone for the ending, that gave me the underlying causality rather than just the plot. It’s been driving me crazy. I’ve been writing, or trying to write, scared, more often than not, because this book is so important, being the culmination of what I consider my primary raison d’etre…the rest of my writing is gravy…and it just couldn’t be allowed to lumber to a last page.

It needed to sing with the promise of the future for my beloved kids.

Consequently, my sleep schedule has just been all off. I’ve been staying up late with the computer, trying to write…late night and first thing in the AM have always been my best writing times…and ending up doing a bit on FB and Den of Angels, just to feel I’ve accomplished something, then lying in bed in the morning trying to get the characters to talk so I can run to the computer with that great insight.

And all that’s happened has been that same sequence of events plodding toward the end. Since I began putting HG on top priority, I’ve managed to get one scene after another to work, and, ultimately to work well, but OMG, it’s been hard. If I didn’t know the characters so well, I’d be hosed. But I finally hit an absolute wall. I realize now, I HAD to have that last line. I read that whole book to Carolyn, right up to that wall, and she kindly said it was great and she wants the rest. She laughed and bit her nails at all the right moments, so I felt it was going pretty good, but…still no last line.

Well…yesterday, after a night of attempted suicide (JOKE) with a nice glass of triticale whiskey and too many shortbread cookies (never combine sugar and alcohol right before bed…immensely stupid) I woke up with the deserved sick headache. Not all the way over to a hangover, just a general malaise. I took some funky water (we have this neat stuff that’s concentrated electrolyes to put into water…sort of gator aide without the yucky taste or calories…and went back to bed to try to conquer the queezies. Carolyn came in after a bit with a great suggestion. “Let’s take a drive and talk about the ending.”

OMG…just what I’d been wanting. But I also know Carolyn was in a bad spot in her own book, so I didn’t want to press. However, I still had a tension headache…and yeah, it was tension, not the whiskey. I’ve been waking with one for the last couple of weeks…so I took some Excedrin migraine and dove into the covers again. (I’d tried the exercise horse to warm up and wake up…that was not a good idea….) Half an hour later, I felt I could face daylight and finally got up, got dressed, and we decided a trip to Pullman for a Cougar Burger was just the right prescription.

Now…Carolyn was supposed to get a computer in on Wednesday. Her current laptop has been a scarey one problem after another. It’s also several years old. She’d been talking new computer, and this current round of writing disrupting crazies clinched it. Dell had their after-Christmas sales going, and she got on the phone and ordered a lovely machine that will do everything she needs, including play Guild Wars without hurky-jerky movement, for a long time to come…and it still has Win7.

Well…Since these things have been known to come early, I asked if she’d check to see if it was on its way, not wanting to leave the house unattended if by some chance it was on a local truck for delivery. She went up to the Dell site…and the order wasn’t listed. After some frantic, she got on the phone, went through the stupid automated system…and the robot said the order had been canceled.

She finally got hold of a live person and they began giving her the runaround. They sent her to another dept, who then tried to send her BACK to the original one. By this time, she was shaking with upset. This whole computer situation would have been bad at any time, but with all the story angst in the house from both writers, it was kind of the last straw.

And it was keeping me from my Cougar Burger!

I asked if she wanted me to talk to them, and she gratefully relinquished the phone. I got on, and played one heck of a Bad Cop. I said, not letting them get a word in edgewise, that we’d been Dell customers since they started, we’d had two years of problems with the other computer that just kept getting the same “repairs” and that this was the last straw, that we had to get out of the house and to get me a supervisor who could fix this…now.

They transferred me. It wasn’t to a supervisor, but I finally got out of them that it was a “compatibility issue”. They couldn’t tell me when it had been canceled, or what kind of compatibility issue or why we hadn’t been notified, and that we’d have to go back to the original salesperson…I finally realized that was all about commission.

Uh….right. So again I wait…he’s going to “hot connect” me directly to her. No muzac. And when the connection came through, it was to Microsoft Exchange…what mailbox did I want. ARGH! fortunately, I did get phone numbers. Her direct one and her next-up’s.Β  I called her, got her voice mail. I left a message, then called the other number and finally, FINALLY was able to determine that the order had been cancelled two days after it was ordered because…get this…the frame ordered was incompatible with the screen ordered.

Part numbers. GOOD EFFING GRIEF! Why didn’t that raise a red flag the moment she put the screen in the order? The order wasn’t actually cancelled on the 14th, rather that’s when the email supposedly telling us it was going to be cancelled supposedly went out on that day. An email we never got. That was the ONLY warning they sent us. They didn’t let the salesperson know there was a problem. There was no further attempt to contact us. The automated system just zapped the order.

Sales person Number Two promised to get with SP#1 and they’d work out the new order and call us back within the hour. Please note…none of this was the fault of the sales staff, it’s the automated process Dell has for dealing with a problem in an order that sucks pond water.

Funny thing, this nice jolt of adrenaline pretty much zapped the headache! Well, jumping ahead, got a call, got the order in, expedited, which evidently means cutting, maybe, two days off the normal time, whoopie, and got ourselves on the road.

After a latte and chai tea, we began talking. Carolyn had said she had some ideas, and basically those ended up pretty much what I had planned, so I felt I was on the right track. I began just outlining the scenes I had planned, and somehow, because I wasn’t running it in my head, but explaining to another person, the circular replaying of the same conceptual lines wasn’t possible and I was forced to move forward….and the scenes began to flesh out. She had some suggestions for a couple of additional scenes that didn’t feel quite right to me, but in sorting out why they didn’t feel right, I began to realize what my scenes had to do other than just advance the plot. I still had this kind of “wrap up” moment, that I didn’t know how to handle, that I didn’t even realize I was fighting. She made a suggestion…half a joke, I think, for something else and all of a sudden: Congelation! (Okay…I KNOW it isn’t a word)

And with that suggestion….I had my last line. Curiously, the scene in question was NOT the last scene, it simply set up that final line.

And THAT is the real magic of writing.

17 comments to I’m in a State of Shock…

  • Congrats on getting a last line! That is awesome! Go, team CC!

    • YAY!!!!!! I’m so flippin’ relieved. And the best part…it’s funny! I LOVE ending on a funny note! I think my favorite ever…maybe up until this one…was “no sheep.” πŸ˜€ But it’s got to have an emotional impact based on everything we know about the main characters. Again…that’s not something I look for, it’s just something they’ve all ended up having in common, so, in retrospect, that’s part of what makes it “right.”

  • and on getting the last word with Dell…..I like Dell, I have 3 Dell computers, the latest one is about 3 years old, and the desktop I’m using is about 8 years old and really needs to be retired to be used as a LAN server or print server of some sort, not as a primary computer.

    I would like to replace this computer with one that has a faster processor suite – this is claimed to have a 2.8GHz Duo-Core Quad CPU, but it just drags down sometimes. I also don’t have as much RAM in it as I’d like, and I haven’t bought more for it because it seems to be more complicated than it used to be when I bought RAM for older computers… “ECC or non-ECC” (huh????). One of the things that I absolutely insist on having for my primary hard drive, though, will be an SSD. I’ve gone through at least 6 hard drives on this computer, fortunately, none are the primary drive, but I store my data and other applications on the subordinate drives, while keeping the OS on the primary drive. That way, if the subordinate drive dies, I don’t lose my OS, just the stuff on that subordinate drive. I’ve got a 2TB external drive for backups, and have it set up as a RAID drive, but sometimes, it just doesn’t seem to work properly, either. A commercial grade RAID is beyond my means, but hey, it’s better than using a backup on floppies, ZIP drives, or tape drives. DVD-R aren’t large enough to hold the data, either.

    Well, congratulations on finding that last line! BTW, what was the name of that distillery where they made the triticale whiskey?

    • Totally agree. LOVE the SSD as the program/boot drive, and a secondary HDD for the data. Advised CJC to go that way with her new one. The ECC and non-ECC just depend on the Mobo. Most places that sell memory online, like crucial, have a scanner that will ping your mobo and find out what it uses. I think any modern computer should have 8gig of RAM minimum. Wish I could afford more… (Can you believe we’re talking in those terms? OMG…have times changed…)

      I’ve never gotten a RAID to work properly, and it’s stupid—on my part. It’s not that hard. I tend to back up data periodically to one of the portable Seagate drives. I’m so disorganized….

      And I’ve like it more with each sampling. It’s strong. A little goes a long way. But I’m really glad we got it.

  • witchyg

    I am in awe…..I would have ended up at our local mental institution just down the road! I can’t comprehend how you and CJ do what you do. I can write research papers, speeches, etc but to even start thinking about writing a book baffles me. Great authors like y’all are on a pedestal for me πŸ™‚

    Kudos for getting Dell straightened out. Things like that is why I learned to build my own systems and buy software on sale, lol.

    • We put together our office desktop…haven’t bought one of those since my first Windows computer…Win98. πŸ˜€ Began upgrading it within a year, found out how basically easy it was to build one, and haven’t bought a system since.

      Hmmm…wait. We did have a local store put together one for us when one died in a move. NEVER again.

  • chondrite

    The last line — the end is in sight! And of course, the universe (or maybe Wesley) has to have his little joke. Didn’t think it was going to be easy, didja? I was watching over DH’s shoulder at a blog about someone who rode the Trans-Siberian Railway from Beijing to St. Petersburg, over a month of travel time for about $1100. At one point, the train stopped mid Siberia for a couple of days while a train wreck was cleared off the rails in front of them. Just keep reminding yourself the journey was worth it. We certainly think so. Incidentally…

    • That is so flipping cool!!!! Thanks so much for the link.

      And you’re right…I knew, the moment I had the problem with the file back in December, that the Wesser was a alive and well and pissed about something. I think now I know what that something was! πŸ˜€

  • My newbie/wannabe writing attempts have nearly always been with characters and scenes for a beginning or somewhere in the middle, but rarely with an ending. I’m still going round-robin or Red Rover style with my writing, very like ADHD, though as far as I know, I don’t have that.

    Jane, it’s very good to know you’ve got such good progress and an ending worked out!

    I’m still going forward with font production, which for now, seems like my best bet towards any improvement in income. But that is very much like writing in terms of how one gets paid: initial payment(s) then sales / royalties thereafter with a minimum for disbursement, and the market’s whims on what they like at the moment. In other words, TANSTAAFL in action, the luck of the draw(ings).

    I’ve been making faster progress since sometime in December, but it’s taking longer because I underestimated the amount of time it takes to tweak the letterforms if they don’t feel/look right, and more so, to adjust the letter pair fit (kerning, etc.). In all, there’s about six weeks for a vendor committee to decide if a font (or family) meets quality standards or needs adjustments, or if they want more styles and features, and think it’ll be a hit, or if they instead reject it for some reason. Then there’s another six weeks to two months before one gets the first payments for sales, if they meet a minimum for disbursement.

    I am still pretty new at this, but making progress and learning a lot as I go. I’m enjoying the fun part, not liking the tedious bits, but overall, this is going better now than I’d thought.

    I still haven’t discovered what it’s like to develop a font-family of several weights and both Roman and Italic. That should be a big deal in itself.

    But it’s progressing, and I hope that by late spring or early summer, I’ll have my first font(s) submitted to at least two vendors for consideration of publication and sales there. I will keep y’all posted.

    Also — It’s possible I might want to enlist a few guinea pigs, er, I mean, volunteers, to test out something or other, when something is closer to completion. When I do make my first submissions and when something’s ready for the public, I’ll (of course) let people know. — My plan is to price the fonts a little low and to offer an introductory discount and periodic discounts, to encourage sales. I think I will have font designs that will be original and useful enough to meet designers’ and writers’ wants/needs, but it all depends what the market wants. There are fashion trends and schools of the design aesthetic in fonts, just like in other arts, and it’s somewhat of a specialized market. Yet people who use and like fonts look for new things.

    What I have in the works are a mix of display and body-text uses. I think I have a few winners there, in planning, but we’ll see.

    I’ve decided I also need to produce a traditional serif typeface to teach myself how they are made. … I had bought calligraphy supplies so I can do some calligraphy and scan and trace that in as a starting point for fonts too, to get the feel of the real human element, warmth, in there. That’s still to try.

    I have some manual reading to do also, to learn how to build in some extra goodies that most people want/expect/need now. Heck, I’d want those to use the fonts myself, and I’m now where I’m ready to start building that in. So…RTFM. πŸ˜‰

    Jane, I am so glad you and CJ are making good progress on your current books.

    My novel reading (for enjoyment) still has a long ways to go before it’s back to its former level. I’ve been trying to concentrate on getting fonts done, doing writing daily to teach myself how the heck to be a fiction writer, and well, house cleanup. So I get to the end of my day and I fall asleep instead of reading. This bugs me, because I really want to read some too, especially fiction, but a few non-fiction books too.

    It’s a measure of just how much my life changed and how out of whack it still is, that I’m not reading regularly, several books a month. (Yes, I am, or was, one of those who’d go to the library or bookstore and leave with an armful of books, and actually read them within the two week checkout period.) I will be so glad when I’m back to reading regularly again. There’s a serious backlog of good books to read, both virtual ebooks and those pbooks, you know, printed books? πŸ˜‰ Periodically, I add to the stack or pull out a few and put them in order again. But I’d promised to read a few, and still haven’t gotten to them. Sheesh.

    • Wow. The Fonts thing is really starting to take shape! Congrats! My whole experience is with “free fonts” that I’ve tweaked to work for some of the notes in my books. They only have to work for a small section or two.

      Let me know when they’re ready for testing. I can put them through a lot of paces, from body text to headers to book titles.

    • chondrite

      Yes indeedy; when you have a font ot two ready to try the world, I haz an interest too, especially if you have anything suitable for a science fiction setting. Let me know when your voice work is ready for public consumption; we are Trekkies in our household, and have a vested interested in audiobooks of that type.

  • Hey, Chondrite; hey, Jane!

    If you didn’t get the chance or see my earlier note, Starship Excelsior put out episodes 402 and 403 in December. (I’m Turgas in 402.) That’s been my largest role yet.

    However, there’s still been no update on when the first two installments of Star Trek: Shadows of Tyranny will be out, and I’ve not yet seen further scripts to begin recording on those. But you’ll get to hear me as a certain Russian ensign there. πŸ˜‰ That role will be for the duration, 6 episodes planned, and will be the largest audio role I’m likely to have for a while. (Unless audio takes off for me.)

    Re the fonts: Yes, I had in mind to ask both of you (and likely Kato at Shejidan and Onna here) to test fonts, since those would be ideal for your personal and professional backgrounds. IIRC, Sky_Barnes here also works with graphics and design, so she might be interested, and a couple of others at Shejidan. πŸ˜€ It would give me useful critiques on issues like kerning and spacing, letter fit, the “color” (the even appearance) of the type, usefulness or oddities, and so on, plus anything that’s a pain or doesn’t work right.

    I do have a couple of science fiction and fantasy font-families planned, futuristic or past. Two of those will be font-families with a range of weights, if things go as planned, and should have broad uses.

    I have in mind to do a worn-looking serif font, suitable for things piratical, because the pro/paid versions I’ve seen are either expensive or lack things like bold weights. This is a bit down the road, as yet, though.

    Something I have in a very rough testing draft right now should be neat, once I figure out how much contrast it needs to suit the time period involved. Currently, it’s too chunky for what I’m after, so the thin strokes and serifs need to be thinner.

    When I have some time to do some calligraphy, I want to draw out samples for a “rusticana” style. I know of only three or four fonts of that type, and they’re good, but I have something in mind. πŸ˜‰ That would suit the ancient world or fantasy settings well.

    For production, I’m told I need the lightest and boldest weights in Roman and Italics, then to produce the intermediate weights from there. I don’t plan on a crazy number of weights, which seems to be what’s happened lately. I currently have two fonts with one style each nearing readiness, and two more to reconstruct from what I’d done, and still haven’t found any backups for, from the mid- to late-90’s. But it’s proceeding nicely.

  • Jane, I really liked what you had to say in this post. I’ve been thinking about it, and there’s also been a side discussion going on in the Shejidan forum on one topic of literary criticism with which I both agree and disagree, in some ways, but the discussion has been interesting, too, in that it’s made me re-examine some things I hadn’t lately.

    Your post resonated with me, because I know that while what I learned in English composition and literature classes was useful in one way, it also wasn’t quite what’s needed as a creative writer; oddly, one of the things they were trying to teach.

    What I mean is that storytelling, the art of writing or presenting orally a story, doesn’t follow any particular set rules, but more like a set of guidelines. Moreover, it’s hard to write down a set of guidelines that would cover every possible story or poem out there. Every single one is different somehow.

    But your post has reminded me of one of my mom’s approaches to beginning art students in her painting classes (oils or sometimes acrylics or watercolors, whatever they wanted to learn).

    Many students would come in and want to learn how to paint. But they were afraid of it. For one, “they couldn’t draw a straight line or a perfect circle,” they’d say. Other things of that kind, indicating they wanted to be able to represent the real world, what they saw or what they imagined, in perfect, clear detail.

    My mom had a couple of answers to this which I know are pretty common for art instruction. You’ve probably heard them and used them. But they apply, I think, to creative writing too.

    For one, she’d tell her students that that was OK, if they really needed to draw a straight line or a perfect circle or some other geometric shape, that’s what rulers and compasses were for. πŸ˜‰ They had their place. But then she’d go on to say that hardly anything in the natural world ever, ever has a perfectly straight line or a perfect circle, and so on. There are nearly always imperfections, curves, wobbles, etc. She’d also point out that part of the artistry of a painting is to render the feeling, the impression of something, and that each person’s individual style enters into it.

    So, of course, she’d have them sketch to loosen up. And she’d also point out that drawing and painting are two differenc approaches to making a picture of something.

    In other words, she was using a standard lesson technique for beginning students, to get them loosened up, not to worry about being perfect with it, and to get back to the real purpose, that joy we first felt when all we had to do was pick up a crayon and color, or fingerpaints and dabble. So of course, they’d begin painting and there would be messes and mistakes and…and they’d relax and begin to enjoy it and learn.

    Her point, like yours, was also that while there are techniques to learn, the real point of the thing isn’t to follow a bunch of stringent rules, but to enjoy the process and create art for art’s sake, something they could enjoy creating and the people they cared about could enjoy viewing. In other words, let the artwork tell the story, and enjoy the storytelling process.

    I suppose that ties the two together.

    Anyway, still enjoying your post.

    • Sounds like your mom was my kind of teacher. I believe that first you help a student learn the fun in the subject, then worry about those rules we’ve superimposed on the topic. This applies to music…help them to LISTEN first and learn scales later…History: tell them the juicy tales about the people they’re going to be studying, maybe even have them read a good novel or two…and learn the (relative) dates once the people of history have become real, for math…hey, calculating the arc is going to help you set your trebuchet’s to bash down the castle walls. All of these things involve making learning fun and applicable. Fun first, critical thinking second…and the rule last. The rules, once you have the critical thinking part down, form the structure for the details.

      That having been said, literary critique takes a lot of forms. There’s the formal analysis you learn to perform in lit classes…I won’t tell you my impression of most of those I’ve seen/heard about…sometimes, a whirlpool is just a whirlpool…but that type can have some merit. I suppose. If you want to impress your fellow academics. IMO academic analysis is interesting primarily in the insight it gives us to the culture that embraced the work. It’s also interesting to study the structure within the shifting approach to storytelling.

      Which has nothing to do with how to write. The creative writer’s god of archetypes, Joseph Campbell, was giving writers an analytical tool, not a writing tool. There’s a difference between analyzing an extant story, or even analyzing an in progress story to try and find out what’s not working, and writing from a set of analytical tools….which is what grammar is as well. Grammar is the analysis of human speech, not the creator of it.

      Then, there are reviews: no one should take up reviewing if they don’t have the capacity to put themselves into the mindset of the intended audience. This type of review should be based on how well the book does what it sets out to do and what kind of reader might most enjoy it. Negative reviews that simply show that the reviewer didn’t grok the book are useless and often downright cruel. “The author writes no likable characters” only shows the reviewer’s own limitations, exp when juxtaposed to the review that considers these the best characters ever written. The better statement is, “I couldn’t personally get into the characters for this and this reason.” That might tell the potential reader how the author goes about setting up characters.

      Then, there’s the writer’s crit, where someone who has been there done that takes a look and says what’s working for them and what isn’t, and makes suggestions for how to approach improvement.

      And the copyedit crit, that should look for grammatical mistakes that snuck in through recalcitrant fingers writing the wrong form of it’s/its, and where grammatical mistakes actually get in the way of understanding. If there are consistent mistakes…as in the use of proper pronouns, that s/b questioned, but individual flux needs to be considered in the context of the sentence.

      And I’m babbling. I need to get back to the scene. I’m not even going to edit this to see if it makes any sense! Bwahahahaha!

      • Made perfect sense to me, and I liked it! Pretty much agree with you there, and uh, I had a few of those lit crit classes. … Fine for what their purpose is, but IMHO, not so applicable to when you actually write (or tell) a story. Like you said, it’s the difference between a tool for analysis and the creative process, which is…so non-linear it’s more like a ball of string!

        Go get ’em, Jane! What’re they up to now?

        Oh. Really? Huh! πŸ˜€ That should put a pebble in their star-drive and spin it…. ;D

  • I don’t know quite when it’ll happen, but I need to think some about what to put into something new for the Toy Box Tales crew, who’ve been dormant for way too long.

    Sometime last year, before things went on a long hiatus with them, after Hanneke had sent an update, I had ordered a couple of small Volks figures that now appear to be sidelined in production, along with some of their other lines. (I can’t quite figure out what’s going on there.) These two were not too expensive, but at that time, I’d overextended myself because I was paying off things. (I am still paying off things. Sigh.) They are around the 21cm/23cm/24cm size, a boy and a girl. (Eep, and it seems their joints disconnect easily.) So they may appear later on.

    I need to do or redo a couple of faceups. The hiatus meant a break for a while. I still need to get better at doing these.

    I had ordered, and later received, one of the “Lammily” average figure girls, among the first version produced. (That’s still the version available.) I have since seen a review, linked from their site, that gives pros and cons of the design and execution, with a very good critique. After seeing that, and looking again, I emailed some suggestions on future figures to the company. I was surprised a few days later to get a reply from Mr, Lamm, thanking me for the detail and the time taken. He wrote that it was one of the best suggestion / critique emails he’d received, and they were developing further things. (Another girl doll, a boy doll, and I think revisions to the first design, for instance.) I was really surprised, because I didn’t think what I’d said would be all that unusual or well done, but apparently, it was appreciated.

    The Lammily doll will show up as one of the female characters.

    When they get a boy (man, guy, boy) doll out, I’ll order one. I’m also interested to see what they’ll do both to revise the first model and to do others. They are still just getting started, really. IMHO, they have a lot of potential there, and they need to work out a few things; but the basic idea, of an average-proportioned doll, a more realistic figure, is a real winner.

    At some later point, there will be another woman doll and a girl, along with the guys. But this will need to wait a while. My budget’s still too iffy.

    I’ll be re-examining what I want to do with the crew, but there should be something. I think my basic ideas were still on target, but I also think I need to look at it more and plan more. So stay tuned.

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