On Writing the Last Scene of My First Draft
As I sat writing the last scene of Coach Dave Season Four: Travel Ball last week, I felt incredibly accomplished. Every scene is going to need some work, and in some ways, my work has just begun. However, as I tell my writing students all the time, give me something to work with!
Just as I can help my students once they have written a draft, I need a draft of my own to start the arduous work of–well–making the story work. Writing the last scene of Season Four also brought conflicting emotions. First, there was the pride of completing a draft from start to finish in just twenty-three days. Thanks to what I have learned from Shawn Coyne’s The Story Grid, I was able to lay out a blueprint for the book before I wrote the first word; therefore, when I sat down to write each day, I already knew where I was going and how I was going to get there.
And then there was the final scene itself. When I began Coach Dave series, the controlling theme of this particular story was nowhere on the radar. As it began to develop in conversations with my editor, I worked through possible scenarios until I found one within the obligatory scenes of the sports action genre but with a solution to the novel’s conflict that was beyond the usual resolutions for the genre. In other words, I like it. A lot.
When I was writing the last scene, I wanted to publish it right away so that my readers could feel like I felt at the moment when I wrote it.
I remembered why writing is so hard. The muse had shown up and taken its leave. The time for editing had arrived. My readers wouldn’t want to read my manuscript unless I first did the work of…
- cutting the scenes that don’t help move the story from conflict to complication to turning point to resolution.
- tightening the language to do away with redundancy and ambiguity.
- adding what has been left out but is necessary to the story.
- answering questions that I anticipate that my readers will have.
- making the story flow.
From Writing the Last Scene to Making the Final Edit
As a writer, I love writing the last scene of a story and calling it a wrap. I embrace the practice of leaving a draft alone for a week or two. I don’t even mind the first edit or two. It’s the re-reads and re-writes after about the second draft that become tedious and tiresome.
As a teacher, I most enjoy taking a first effort and helping a student improve it. Those are the times when I feel a good sort of spent at the end of the day. Secret door narratives start this week, and I can’t wait to discover the new worlds of my young writers. I look forward to helping them tell better stories.
Here’s my rough draft of last year’s secret door narrative that I wrote along with my students.
Now, if I could just get the teacher me to lend some energy to the writer/editor me, I would be chomping at the bit to get started making Coach Dave Season Four a better story. Whether or not that happens by Saturday morning, I’ll be starting the editing process then. Hopefully, when I begin, I’ll be full of
vim and vigor.
[bluebox] Al Ainsworth is the author of five books:
Coach Dave Season Three: Middle School[/bluebox]