Finishing a Novel: The Old Is Made New Again

When you read this I’ll be on my way home to Florida. Since I’m clearly in a car and not at my computer I thought I schedule a blog from a previous September to share with you instead. I found this one, published first in September 2011 when I was finishing One Mountain Away,  and it seemed so appropriate. Once again I’m finishing a novel, When We Were Sisters, and feeling all the anxiety that comes with it.  I’ll confess that packing up and traveling home when I only have three chapters left is not particularly helpful either.

Still, it was helpful to remember that this, too, shall end. It ended before–many times, in fact–and it will again. In fact this quote from Karen Salmansohn just popped up on my computer:

When feeling overwhelmed by a faraway goal, repeat the following: I have it within me right now, to get me to where I want to be later.”

As I repeat that line over and over again, please read on. I’ll see you here next Tuesday.

Waiting and Praying

In my house it’s easy to tell how close I am to turning in a book.

1–We eat takeout and frozen foods from the last decade.

2–I begin to wear clothing that under normal circumstances I would use to dust my furniture.

3–I can’t remember the date, often even the month, since it does NOT coincide with the month I’m writing about.

4–When the neighbors actually catch sight of me, they ask if I’ve been away.

5–I ask doctors and dentists if I’ll survive until October 31st if I don’t have that root canal or pesky laser treatment on my retina.

6–I wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night.

Lately cold sweat and I have become friends.  I’ve even contemplated counting cold sweat as a shower and thereby saving myself the minutes it takes to stand in a real one.  I am nearing a deadline and I still have ten chapters to write.

Deadlines are never fun, but some are worse than others.  One Mountain Away, which comes out next August has been a difficult book to write.  Some books are like that, and the truth is, after publication how hard or easy it was is never clear to anyone but me-and all those poor souls who listened to me complain.  Books I’ve cold-sweated over and books that just seemed to write themselves are either good or not-so, simply because they are.  Never because I worried more or less as I wrote them.

By the time all the pieces of this book began to fall into place, months had drooped by. Now I’m working at high speed.  Yesterday I finally took a break to outline the end.  After lots of work I’d gotten the first two-thirds of it outlined, but there was still the last third to go.  Of course, I didn’t know the remainder was the final one-third.  I hoped it was the final one-fourth.  But no such luck.  After carefully counting all the threads I had to tie, ten chapters emerged.  Now, granted, they may be short chapters.  I am, in fact, praying they will be.  Everything’s been set up.  We don’t need scenery or in-depth characterization now.  We need to find out what happens.

Endings are tricky.  Because I’ve wrestled so hard with these characters, they’re now old friends.  I know how they feel, how they think, how they’ll react.  I also know that when I finally get the end I’m seeking, I will be sad to say goodbye.

The good news?  This is the first book of a series.  Next year many of these characters and I will be together again, sweating, prodding each other, hoping for a happy ending.  And you know what?  I’ll probably be thrilled.  Writing a book is like having a baby.  Once we hold the little darling in our arms, we’re overtaken by amnesia.  We just can’t wait to do it again.


  1. Paulina Warren on September 8, 2015 at 12:38 pm

    I do so enjoy your candid and sometimes rueful commentaries on the process of writing. It is a delight to know the birthing process of stories that I so enjoy reading– often many times. Some are too meaningful for me to not be immersed serially. Thank yyou.

    • Emilie Richards on September 12, 2015 at 3:21 pm

      Thank you, Paulina. What a great comment.

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