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POINT OF VIEW: The Monster at the End of This Book

The Monster at the End of This Book

When I was a kid, I had a few favorite picture books. At the top of the list was The Wump World – and it’s so freaking relevant now in regards to the human-driven nature of climate change that it’s scary. Get this book for your little kids NOW (and read it yourself).

In a similar vein, I loved Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax, about the ills of deforestation and the impacts of environmental degradation on the world and humankind.

But one of my all-time faves was the Little Golden Book called The Monster at the End of This Book. It has a simple but bracing premise – pretty much spelled out in the title – and consists of Grover from Sesame Street imploring you over and over again, in ever more stressed-out language, to stop turning pages before you reach the end of the book.

Spoiler Alert: The monster at the end turns out to be Grover himself. And he’s immensely relieved.

As a writer, I often feel like there’s a monster at the end of my own books. It’s a multi-limbed beast that waits for me after the last page: part fear of screwing up the story, part dread at the idea of having to go all the way back to the beginning to start the second draft, and part sheer exhaustion. I’m always nervous when I get close to the end.

I crossed that line this morning at about 7:09 Pacific Time, when I typed “The End” on The Hencha Queen, the third book in the YA sci-fantasy trilogy I’ve been working on for over a year. I’ve had my own list of Grover Warnings, in the form of notes I’ve been making for the second draft – plot points to tie up, little details to work out, and every other little nitpicky thing I can think of that’s “wrong” with the story.

Still, when I turned the last page this morning, there was no monster (alas not even a Grover) – just immense sense of relief. I don’t care how many books you write – this is my eleventh novel-length work – there’s still a soul-filling feeling of satisfaction when you finally reach the end.

As novel authors, we have to remind ourselves that most people never even get there even once, and to do it over and over again takes a special kind of person.

Or maybe a masochist.

As a novelist, you learn your own stages of writing. Mine are, roughly:

  • The Great Idea
  • The Writing Honeymoon
  • The Muddy Middle
  • The Great Slog
  • The Steep Slide

…and now the Monster at the End of the Book. Each one is like an old friend along the way, greeting me and pointing me on toward the next.

Turns out the monster’s not so bad. I can only hope that my readers are, like Grover, happy about what they find at the end.

To my writer friends – what are your monsters at the end of the book? How do you deal with them?

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1 thought on “POINT OF VIEW: The Monster at the End of This Book”

  1. I love that book. Didn’t discover it until reading to my kids, but it has the perfect blend of anticipation and dread. As to story, I haven’t found any consistent pattern to my writing. So much depends on the inspiration for me. I can tell you any story that started from an idea will fight me until I learn the character’s voice…which sometimes is on the third rewrite :p. If the character comes first with a story to tell, I’m racing to keep up and even with an initial synopsis and an outline, I can be kicked in the teeth at the end.

    What pattern I have learned is when I know the story well enough to start writing instead of percolating. I must be able to write that initial synopsis. It might not end up being the way the story goes, but that tells me I have a framework for the beginning, middle, and end. I guess that’s how I avoid the slog. I can deviate from the path, but if I get mired, I have something to go back to. Now don’t ask me about the times I ignored this realization…

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