By: Dennis Bates
Since I’m probably blogging to myself anyway, for the most part, I thought I’d write about something I can relate to: the two sweetest words a writer can type. Those words are THE END, and although they never appear in a book, the get typed on all my manuscripts. There’s just something about those two words that is so satisfying to me.
After weeks, months, or maybe even years of slogging through the daily angst of characters who have become very real to me, all of a sudden the people I have created finally reach the last step in our mutual journey together. I have literally lived in their skin, or more precisely they have lived in mine, and now I have to say good bye. It’s a bittersweet time.
All the meals we have had together, all the hours we have spent talking to each other, and all the highly personal things we have witnessed together are over, and it’s time for both of us to move on. I don’t know of any writer who takes their writing seriously who doesn’t become fond of the characters who visit their over active imaginations, and I don’t know many of us who doesn’t hate to let them go. But, at some point they have to move on.
It’s especially sad when you write the way I do. It’s loosely called Seat of Your Pants, which is a nice way of saying I’m a very poor planner. I don’t outline my stories; I follow a bare bones storyline in my head that changes frequently and sometimes quite dramatically mid sentence. For the most part, I bring up my manuscript on my computer screen, reread the last few pages of what I wrote last and ask the main character where we are going today. Then I put my fingers on the keyboard and let my characters take them where they will.
I also pray frequently and ask the Holy Spirit what it wants to say through me in this section, and I am often surprised about where He takes me. Sometimes I end up in strange places when I do that, so I ask again, “Are you sure this is where you want me to be?” The answer is almost always yes, followed by a promise that I will understand later.
I can’t tell you how many times I have read something for the first time after my fingers have written it. There aren’t too many days that go by that I don’t ask myself, “Who wrote that?” Since I’m the only one sitting at the keyboard, my conclusions are inescapable. At least it was my fingers that punched out the words, but I am still often convinced that I couldn’t have written them.
That’s one of the things that makes writing so exciting to me. I never know for certain where I am going or how I am going to get there. But, once I’m there, once I type those two magic words: THE END, I know it’s really not. It’s just the starting place for my next adventure. Still, there’s a real sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when I look back from those two words. I made it, and the trip was fun.
It turns out that writing is a lot like driving along the rural gravel roads in Iowa. No matter how many times you have driven through a particular stretch of the country, there is always a road you haven’t driven down before. That’s where I turn off to find something new.