In the beginning of July, I received an email from a fan named Kerri. Immediately, I thought of my childhood best friend with the same name, even spelled the same way! I knew it wasn’t the same girl I once counted as a sister, but my heart began pounding out of my chest, and I didn’t ‘think’ . . . maybe I need to find her today? I KNEW! Granted, I’d tried many times to search for her online but to no avail. I hadn’t had any contact with her since I married in 1998. Her last name was different. I had no idea where she lived. Make a looong story short, I paid one of those stalker sites a dollar that EVENTUALLY led me to finding my long-lost friend that day. Her mom, who might as well have been my mom from fourth to eighth grade, died the day before, too young at the age of 57. Was the immediacy I felt at the need to find her THAT particular day a coincidence?
So what does this have to with writing?
On July 23rd, I received an email with my first round of edits for the last novel in my 18 Things trilogy. She had this to say about my ending:
“Then the epilogue happens. I’ve never been so angry and confused and bipolar in my emotions as what this ending gave to me. NOT in a good way. I edited this AS I READ IT for the first time. That was my immediate, instinctual reaction. If this were a finished, completed MS that I’d picked up and were reading to review for enjoyment, the rating/review would not be positive.”
Between a family drama and health problems, I had to let this one simmer a couple of weeks because I wasn’t sure how to respond. But when I finally returned to her comments, I realized she was right. Sometimes the gruffest critiques can be the best. They make you evaluate what YOU really want as an author and go from there (a wise CP reminded me of that). And I realized the ending I, THE AUTHOR, wanted all along, wasn’t the right one . . . neither was the one my editor hoped for. Like my first two books, it may be an ending that hardly anyone expects. I know I didn’t!
But like my 14yo daughter said, “Well, Mom, you pulled total surprise endings in your first two books . . . don’t you think it’s only fitting your characters do the same thing to you for the final book?”
Still, I was flipping out . . . BUT THIS WASN’T WHAT I PLANNED?! WHAT DO I DO?!?! I should note that I never ‘planned’ to write an epilogue either. My characters had already surprised me with an extra I didn’t expect. But this time around, I was leaning toward cutting the epilogue completely, and the final chapter was one I hadn’t thought of until mulling things over after my editor’s email.
I was at a crossroads. And like so many other times in life, I followed my intuition. Never would I have ‘planned’ my ending this way, but I know . . . not think, not hope, not pray . . . I KNOW it’s the right one. Funny thing was, when I went back and examined some things in 18 Truths, it’s like my subconscious knew this ending was coming all along. Just took me a while to catch on!
Do you find yourself immediately listening to that little voice nudging inside of you, or does it take a few wrong tries before you realize your intuition was somehow right all along?
This has been a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh. We post the first Wednesday of every month, so feel free to join us if you need support or would like to give some encouragement! We’ve been going for three years strong now!
You are very lucky to have an editor who is honest with you and that you can take a time out and then think about the comments. I’m sure you’ll come up with the best solution for the ending. Thanks for sharing your adventure in writing.
I think we all let our own voices drown out that little voice that knows everything. In all our fighting to get it done and do it our way, we forget to listen. Thanks for the reminder. We need to have faith in ourselves. 🙂
Thanks for sharing. Intuition all the way!
At least you can fix it now. And know that it needs fixing. (That’s half the battle, isn’t it?)
And I don’t think it was a coincidence that you found your friend when you did…
Yes! These things happen and blow my mind. That is so fantastic you reconnected!!
My agent had me change the ending to my story completely. Sometimes we can’t see the best story beneath a story we are so close to.
It’s very cool that you found your friend, though sad the reunion was at a funeral 😦
I know I should listen to my intuition more often, because often whenever I look back is when I realize that there was something I was feeling that I “knew” just didn’t feel right.
I am always fascinated to read about another writer’s process. Since twisty endings seem to be your trademark, I wouldn’t be surprised to find another one at the end of your next story, in fact if there wasn’t a twist of some kind I would suspect something was missing!
I’m getting better at listening to that little voice that leads me through my stories but there are still an awful lot of wrong turns for me. Fortunately, I’m not afraid to rip everything apart and revise when necessary.
You are fortunate to have such a perceptive and honest editor. 🙂
I had a similar thing happen with one of my books. My instincts told me to cut the book in half but .”I” decided it didn’t need it. A very kind critter pointed out that it would be a much more fluid story if I changed the story line. I changed it and have succeeded in selling it..
but here’s the weird thing. Just this morning, (kid you not), I figured out how to use that scene, rewritten and from another point of view.
Sometimes our intuition has the right idea just at the wrong time.
I will be interested to read what you did to the ending. You know my feelings on what you had before. You have me intrigued. 🙂
Jamie, I don’t know how you will end your book. That will be a personal decision made with you and your alter-ego … the writer.
What I do know is that the writer lives in a secret place, that wonderful land of nod … and when you travel there you bring back wonderful tales to tell. Maybe you will travel to that place only one more time … maybe the demands of family and your life will keep you from traveling and you’ll wonder … what if. Yeah, what if you ended it this way or that? What if you decide to take another journey and bring us along? What if you find the way to be both the loving person you are who is also a damn good writer?
Do what you must and never forget … what if?
I think being open to critique and having some flexibility is what makes an excellent writer. And I also think we do have to think of the reader. These books start with us, but they belong to them. Make them happy.
So awesome you found your friend…and no, I don’t think it was coincidence!
It’s lovely that you found your friend and maybe you were always meant to reconnect at her hour of need.
Sometimes we have to hear things that are hard to nudge us in the right direction. With reflection, we can step back and see how things are really meant to go.
I find it takes me sometimes a few goes before I end up listening to instinct… you’d think I learnt after a few rounds…hehe It’s great that you get to edit it though.
Yes! I believe our intuition is there for a reason, and I’m so glad you listened to yours and found your friend at such a critical time. It’s also true that sometimes intuition may come in the form of a friend or partner who gives us the hard advice we need to hear! Great post, Jamie!
I believe in intuition. When I ignore it, I’m uncomfortable and sometimes go in a completely wrong path.
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