Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Last Line

I finished writing the first draft of Devil's Lair on March 31, 2006. It took me two years and felt like it would never end. My characters weren't the only ones going through hell. But surprisingly, it does end. There's light at the end of the Inferno.

When I finished the first draft, I was exhausted and exhilarated, anxious and proud.

It felt like graduation day.

When I'm writing, I have to imagine the end of the story before I start, and Devil's Lair was no exception. From the beginning I had the very last line of the book in mind.

But when I finally wrote that last line, it didn't work. Something wasn't right.

Panic set in. I began to doubt everything that came before. This was the line I had been writing towards for two years, and now it just lay there like a dead rat. Maybe the line was just too familiar to me now, and didn't have the same kick as I'd imagined way back when.

Then another thought occurred to me: the novel had evolved in the writing; the last line had not. Was it the wrong line? Or the wrong novel?

Oh, God.

I paced around the room for maybe ten minutes before the solution hit me.

An even better line.

No, the perfect line.

It fit the novel I'd just written, it resolved plot and theme and character, and it added a kind of grace note.

I jumped back into my desk chair, wrote the new last line in a blind flurry, hit save, and shouted to no one listening:


Am I going to tell you my last line?

Hell, no.

You're going to have to get through the whole novel to find it.

Just like I did.

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