This is the final lesson of the Writing 102 series. This is the last lesson that you should read while writing your first draft, and today I'll show you how to conquer the nagging urge to make changes to previous passages while writing.

 


In the immortal words of Mr. Peanut: "Tonight's the night we ALL go nuts!"



  
 

First up, why should you resist it? Well, making such changes is the number two reason some writers can never finish a manuscript. Back in writing 101 I explained the number one reason was being unable to write an ending. If you are following your outline & summary you don't have that problem. But secretly every writer has a bit of OCD when it comes to their first draft, and today we learn how to fight that side of nature.

Why do we feel the urge? The simple truth is fear of failure and fearing ending the book aka separation anxiety. As you near the end two things occur to you: 1) you're going to really miss writing that story and 2) Oh dear gods, what if it's crap!? KEEP CALM and DON'T PANIC. Don't worry if it's crap now, that's what we'll address in Writing 103 and the *sarcasm* joys of editing. You'll need other eyes to help you determine what is crap and what is gold. What you really need to fight is the urge to never let go, that pesky separation anxiety.

Why do you fear ending the book? This will be particularly sharp when you don't have a sequel planned. Characters become your friends, the world of your book seems real. If you write enough, you'll even dream about it. It feels real, and as such, ending the story will feel like a little death, like an era of your life ending. There is no way around it. Remember that sad feeling going off to college or graduating college when you knew that the summer you just passed was your last summer? Adulthood has no summer breaks. It was a keening feeling, melancholia you had to endure, but you got past it. You will with pass this one too.

 

Of course, some of us never got over the last summer 


  

To fight the urge to make changes, first you need to prepare for ending your story. If you're feeling this fear of ending, you need to overcome it by cheating death. If your story is part of a series, take a break and write down ideas for the next book. Think of the characters you want to bring back, and plan out how they will grow and change. Make some new character bios for the next story as a snapshot of your character at the end of the current story. Having something to look forward always makes it easier to leave something else behind.

But what if your story is not part of a series? Well, this is where you get to cheat. Write a short story about the surviving characters, write a few, just no more than three. Limit it to 10,000 words or less each story. These should be mainly for your entertainment. Here's the trick: write half the story before you finish your first draft, and write the second half AFTER you finish your manuscript. This way you have something to look forward to. As a bonus, if these stories turn out to be good, you may consider publishing them in the future.

Aside from that, think of ending a story like sending your child off to college. Yes, they are starting their life away from you, but it's not a death. Remember you can always put characters from this story, even minor ones, into other stories. I like to do that. In fact, all my stories are linked, so my short stories, novellas, and novels all take place in the same world.

For fun, I made a map of how it happens. How do I connect sc-fi/fantasy to mystery or historical romance? The key is the Something Wicked series. What you don't see in the short stories, but appears in the novels I've already written and need editing, is the concept that there is a hall of dimensional doors. I hinted at it when Bram from Darkness Calling appeared in Hidden Magic. Marcus from Auto Erotica is mentioned as having a second job: turns out it's working for Marly Jackson. Hannah/Anni, Angoralt, and Elfgwyven of Fey World become the gods worshiped in A Harem Fantasy. Finnegan from Kate the Kid is the ancestor of Michael Finnegan of the Marly Jackson Mysteries. And it goes on and on. Knowing those connections are alive and well helps me to end every story with a feeling of pride, not lamentation. I don't feel like I'm ending an era, I feel like I'm building up the world.

 

A portrait of you after reading the above paragraph



  

So focus on sequels, create short story sequels, or connect stories together in little ways. Make your writing a real, whole world just like H.P. Lovecraft. The other half of resisting endless changes in media res...DON'T DO IT. Editing is coming up, and you'll discover it's twice as hard and one quarter as fun as writing. So save yourself the headache, start thinking about these connections/sequels, and buckle down and finish your manuscript.

Continue writing, and leave the next Writing 103 lesson for until you finish your manuscript. One last thing: when you do finish, it's good to have a ritual for when you finish your first draft. In Stephen King's Misery we see author Paul Sheldon's ritual: a glass of wine and a single cigarette. Make it your own, make it private. I won't tell you mine, but let's just say it's a great way to blow off steam. Good luck, and happy writing!


Don't go on to writing 103 until you look like this