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JOAN BARTH ON: THE END

October 25, 2010

Authors have to know when to stop. I just read Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. He finished the mystery and then wrote another 70 pages. Enough already! I wanted to say.

When you’re finished, you’re finished. To keep on writing requires you to empty your brain of every idea related to the story. I don’t need to know you got up at 3 a.m. to reread your work.

Including details can be important or too much. Do you have someone in your resource list who will tell you when it’s too much?

Recently I was eating with a small group of women. One, an author, recounted an event that happened years ago. “I can remember the dress I had on. The table where I sat. What I ate.” She told us about her father doing DNA testing to discover his relatives. She couldn’t just say that her 90 year old father took a DNA test. “They put a cotton swab in his mouth, smeared his cheek three times and put the swab in a plastic baggie.”

Some people write like that. Do you? Do you say more than people want to know?

Books are like vacations. Vacations usually have a starting and ending place. Your husband says, “Anyplace is fine. I can adjust to anything. I just need to get away.” So you arrange two weeks with cousins at the beach. Later, he says, “I don’t like the Shore and I hate those cousins. What were you thinking?”

Do you write a book that way? Are books set in London during World War II popular? Do they include lots of sex and violence? But you don’t like London; you’re sick of World War II; you’re not interested in violence; you believe sex is a private affair. But will you write about those things anyway? After all, they sell.

Where do you want your book to start and stop? When you reach your destination, do you leave the plane, car, train or bus? Or do you stay on to see where it goes?

Does your book have a destination?

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