Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

The end draws ever closer

When I left off my manuscript yesterday evening, I was on page 365, just shy of 110,000 words. On the pages I printed out to help me with my revision, I’m on page 386, exactly 40 pages from THE END. There are two pages or so out of those last forty that have already been incorporated into an earlier part of the revised manuscript, so I’m really more like 38 pages from the end.

This is the tough part, though. Yesterday, I only squeaked out 900 words or so, some of which was the result of backing up ten or so pages and futzing around a little. I thought said futzing would cut words, but it might have actually added. So be it. The end result was that yesterday was a little like treading water. My main character stands at the final inflection point of the story, the point where she makes her final major decision and goes from down and out to triumphant.

There are, I think, two reasons for my treading water. The first is losing the rhythm. Because I’ve been obsessively tracking this, I know that from Sunday through Wednesday last week, I cranked out 11,600 words, an average of nearly 3,000 per day. I was in the groove. On Thursday, however, it all came apart. We had a board of directors meeting that night. It lasted four hours. Ugh. On Friday, my wife and I went to our Audubon Society’s charter dinner (my wife is co-president of the chapter). We stopped out for a drink after and didn’t get home until after 10. On Saturday, I worked in the morning, watched the Bruins rout the Red Wings in the afternoon–and just didn’t feel up for writing that night. While I recognize that the so-called Writing Rule “Write every day” is not for everyone, I know I’m better when I do.

The other thing that slowed me down, however, is because of that inflection point I mentioned above. This is the last such point in the story, and arguably the most important: this is the point where everything really comes together. The character must now stand on the foundation I’ve built for her through the course of the story, and that foundation has to be rock solid, or there will be no future readers for this manuscript aside from a couple of more betas and some agents who ultimately pass. It’s scary stuff, and what makes it scarier is this: any changes I make to this point could potentially reverberate back through the entire story, sending me on a search-and-destroy mission throughout the manuscript. It’s almost like being a time traveler setting out to find some evil-doer (or someone who is well-meaning but doesn’t understand you don’t mess with time!) who grabbed a time machine and fucked around in the past.

Writing with the story ahead of you is easy. Keeping the continuity during the rewrite stage? That’s a lot harder. How do you do it?


I’ve had Pete Yorn on here once before. Here he is with Scarlett Johansson (yes, that Scarlett Johansson, how many do you think there are?). I think their voices work well together, don’t you?

2 Responses

  1. I find this SO HARD!!!! I'm currently dealing with a major change that has caused me to change major bits of 2/3 of the story. It will be better in the long run, but keeping track of what needs to be done as I edit is tough!!
    Good luck!

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