Life after “The End”

I promised that if it happened, you’d be the first to know.

Then I told you it would happen by the end of this week.

And it has happened. Oh yes. It’s happened.

On November 21, 2012, I officially typed the words, “The End,” bringing to a close the first draft era of Privateer.

Some Privateer stats, just for the record:

  • 1st draft began: May 15, 2011
  • 1st draft finished: November 21, 2012
  • Final 1st draft word count: 135,362 words
  • Final 1st draft page count: 450 pages
  • Final 1st draft chapter count: 27 chapters
  • Number of NaNoWriMos used to write first draft: 1.5 (finished with 10 days left of NaNo 2012)
  • Number of times I had to adjust my original outline: you seriously expected me to count?
  • Number of times I almost seriously gave up: 2

When it happened, I was in the car with my dad, driving from LA up to my grandmother’s house in Santa Rosa, CA for Thanksgiving (FYI: I was not the one driving, I promise). My dad graciously allowed me to work furiously for around three hours uninterrupted, somehow understanding that his twenty-year-old daughter was more interested in writing the final 2600 words of a novel manuscript than blasting road-tripping music from the stereo like a normal college student on Thanksgiving break.

What’s sort of funny and ironic is that almost immediately after I typed “The End,” my laptop battery died. And in a way, that’s sort of how I felt—like I’d finally run out of steam/finished the marathon/some other idiom (see, I can’t even think of clichés to describe my emotions right now. That’s how drained I am).

How can I describe this? That moment was sort of like a movie. Like one of those really horrifying attempts at artsy films that leave you feeling like you completely missed the metaphor. Or like this one:

Yup, I’m describing my writing life via Aristocats again. Deal with it.

At the same time, when I began to write the last chapter, I realized suddenly why people write sequels (indulge me for a moment while I refer to my characters as real people). Charmaine went totally berserk, and tried vehemently to persuade me that her story wasn’t over. And I almost agreed. There’s so much more that could be told, so many things that I didn’t say.

And yet, there are so many things that I did say. Far too many things, in fact. And this is the choice that every writer must face; does the story end here or there? Or does it end at all? Just because the reader closes the book doesn’t mean that the character has nothing more to say. Stories live on after the book ends. Characters remain alive in the afterthought.

Yes, I am exhausted, and in a way, I was so ready to see “The End.” But Privateer is also my baby. Over the past year and a half, I have tried my best to nurture her characters, getting to know them inside and out, but now I’m asking them to quiet down. Eventually, new characters will occupy my thoughts as those of Privateer once did, and maybe I will forget what it felt like to dream in 16th century historical fiction and wake up with all of Charmaine’s unsolved problems on my mind.

But this is only a first draft. It’s not over. It’s far from over.

I have multiples drafts ahead of me. I have a cuts document calling my name. Revision season is only just beginning, and maybe I made it out of this round alive, but I get to wade in up to my eyeballs all over again. Already, I look at this draft and see only the places where it doesn’t work—the awkward phrasing, the plot inconsistencies, the unnecessary characters. Already, I am planning my next attack.

But not today. Today, I am thankful that I have seen the words “The End.” Today, I am thankful for the people who forced me to keep going when I was completely blocked and wanted to stop. Today, I am thankful for my strange, messed up characters, because they reflect the parts of me that are strange and messed up (AKA all of me), and they remind me every day that I can’t ever do this on my own. I write about broken people to honor a God who’s bigger than brokenness, and today, I’m thankful for Him.

Because He’s the reason behind my work, always.

Happy Thanksgiving, all.

Samantha Chaffin

P.S.—if you’re still reading this, waiting for me to post my promised happy dance video, I’m sorry to disappoint. Still, I am a woman of my word. So that goshdarned happy dance vid will get its own goshdarned post, goshdarn it.

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8 thoughts on “Life after “The End”

  1. nearlypublished says:

    Yay! I’m happy that you finished Privateer. I think it’s funny that your laptop battery died after you wrote ‘the end’. I would have been freaking out, thinking that I’d have lost everything that I wrote before last saving. I trust that that didn’t happen, though? 😀

    Anyway, I want to wish you a happy Thanksgiving. 🙂

    • samchaffin says:

      Thank you, Hannah!! Oh I totally freaked out for about two seconds, but then I remembered that I’d hit save like three hundred times after I typed “The End.” So I didn’t lose anything. 😉

      Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Kim says:

    WHOO HOO! Congrats, Sam! Welcome to the club *shakes warmly by the hand* I loved hearing about when and where it actually happened – and the dead battery part seemed like you’re laptop adding its two cents (I know my netbook has been through the war with all the writing I’ve done. I can’t help but see the poor thing as a person, haha).

    I remember being sad and exhausted and relieved. There’s no need to rush about deciding on the sequel. Revisions are evil (well, you know, when they seem like giant mountains to climb), so you’ll feel better once you start on them. Just a start – it makes the whole task seem easier, even if you decide to work on other projects along the way.

    Bah. Sorry. I can rant about revisions in a very unhealthy way. The last few months for me have been nothing but revisions. It’s hard to switch between revision and writing; they are so different from each other!

    Anyway, you should enjoy your accomplishment. I’m looking forward to reading more of The Privateer! 😀

    • samchaffin says:

      Haha, aw thanks, Kim! Oh my word, I feel like our laptops deserve special recognition for surviving our antics! And I definitely hear ya about revisions. Right now, I can’t even bring myself to think about them. The prospect of other projects seems a little foreign to me, too… but soon, I’m sure I’ll get over it and the plot bunnies will have their revenge…

      OH and I wish you all the luck in the world with your revisions! Even though I’m sure your process is a lot prettier than I’m anticipating mine will be; you seem like the sort of person who would plan these things fairly well… whereas I will be like a chihuahua with an assortment of new chewtoys. Still, I will gladly cheer you on from here: “See Kim run, see Kim jump, see Kim DOMINATE LIKE A TOTAL FREAKIN HERO.” 😀

  3. jarofsomething says:

    Gah! I’m so happy you’ve finished the first draft of “Privateer”! 😀 The battery dying immediately after you’d finished the draft was hilarious and coincidental.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  4. thejaneite says:

    SAAAAMMMMMMM…..wow. I’m so proud of you. And Privateer is one of my favorite books, if I’m being honest. Flattery aside, it’s brilliant and it’s real and your characters really exist, for me. You’re inspiring to me and I am so happy to have been here reading as you go, enveloped in the suspense, crying with your characters and wishing it would never end. (Okay wow, that all sounded way sappier than I intended. BUT I MEAN IT.) You’re awesome. I hope you indulged in lots of pie. You deserve it.

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