What Happens When You Reach ‘The End?’

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, my collaborative writing partner, Jodi Cleghorn, and I finished writing the first draft of our epistolary narrative Post Marked: Piper’s Reach.

We are separated by distance, living in different states in Australia and have written this novel by handwriting the letters and sending them via the post. Yes, we wrote 85,500 words BY HAND.

Fortuitously, for the first time we were able to sit down together in the one place and write the final installments.

If you want to know what Post Marked: Piper’s Reach is all about, here’s the blurb:

In December 1992 Ella-Louise Wilson boarded the Greyhound Coach for Sydney leaving behind the small coastal town of Piper’s Reach and her best friend and soul mate, Jude Smith. After twenty years of silence, a letter arrives at Piper’s Reach reopening wounds that never really healed.

When the past reaches into the future, is it worth risking a second chance?

Post Marked: Piper’s Reach is an ambitious collaborative project traversing an odd path between old and new forms of communication, differing modalities of storytelling and mixed media, all played out in real and suspended time. The project has at its heart a love of letter writing and music.

The letters are handwritten and posted in “real time.”

“To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.” ~ Phyllis Theroux

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And now we have written “The End.” The story is finished.

This is the first significant piece of writing I have completed apart from flash fiction. It is the first novel I have written (I have another currently in the works that I began last year but have put on hold for a number of reasons).

How do I feel?

I feel excitement at having completed the novel; joy and relief; a sense of accomplishment because of what I have completed, and with it also, I feel sadness.

Coming to the end of this project brings with it a whole series of conclusions and endings.

  • The ending of the narrative and the story of Ella-Louise and Jude.

We have had such an emotional investment in our characters and their intertwined lives that coming to ‘The End’ is like the passing of a dear friend. I wrote the character Jude while Jodi wrote the character Ella-Louise and for the better part of 16 months we have lived with these characters. We keep saying we’ll need some therapy to get through the tumultuous times our characters experienced. And vicariously we have too, reading each letter through the lens of our character and as a reader.

We were sitting at opposite ends of my dining room table, writing the final lines. When we finished, we handed them over to be read. There were tears, stunned silences and a gutted feeling that it was all over.

  • The end of the interaction with our small, but dedicated, core of readers who we dubbed “Posties.”

They engaged with the characters and the writing, commenting on the weekly letter, discussing the characters’ motivations, arguing over what should or should not happen to the characters.

Over on the Facebook page we had long conversations with the Posties, ran contests and trivia, and had a whole lot of fun.

And we will feel the sorrow of the ending all over again when our readers get to ‘The End’ in about 8 weeks’ time.

  • The ending of the collaborative partnership.

Jodi pitched the idea to me in January, 2012 after we met for the first time in real life in December the year before. She runs eMergent Publishing and I had the privilege of working with her to have my first two short stories published. Our friendship developed and grew as we worked together, and when we met in real life it was like we had known each other for decades.

After the initial pitch we spent three days brainstorming by text and the first letter arrived later that month.

Since that time we have worked closely together during this project and it has been an exhilarating journey.

It was not a traditional collaboration; rather than plan and talk through ideas on the plot and structure, we let it develop in an organic way in what we came to term the “No Spoilers Policy.” Without discussing plot and ideas it kept the writing, and anticipation, fresh as we waited for the arrival of the postman to deliver the next letter.

We spent hours talking and deconstructing each letter after it arrived and we had read it. You can hear about our process of writing and what we learned as writers in an audio interview we did with Sean Wright (@SeandBlogonaut) over on his blog.

But our collaboration (but not our friendship) has come to en end, and with it, a strong sense of sadness.

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After ‘The End’

With the writing of ‘The End’ comes a feeling of finality (at least temporarily), that the initial phase of writing and drafting is finished and complete. Yet the end of a draft is only one step in the path to publication.

Now comes the time to put it all aside for a while, let it sit and be forgotten about until it comes time for editing.

This is then followed by synopsis writing, query letters and the like; but that’s in the future (we have big dreams for this novel).

After ‘The End’ comes a new project. For me it will be a novella, some short pieces, a picture book and a multimedia project.

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What Next?

‘The End’ does not mean I stop. It means I begin the next step in the process. I begin writing new material. I begin editing other projects before I return to the manuscript of Post Marked: Piper’s Reach and polish it ready for submission.

Reaching ‘The End’ is only one part of the process, because for a writer, there is always another story to tell.

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2 responses to “What Happens When You Reach ‘The End?’

  1. What you and Jodi have provided, as well, is a breath of life to the epistolary form of storytelling and a model for other writers on the fusion of the old and the new.

    As writers, we cannot merely accept that one form of writing is “dead” because of our 21st century advancements and ways of life. Your collaboration with Jodi — and your real-time transparency and interaction with your readers — paves the way for other such projects to make their mark on the literary timeline.

    I cannot speak for other readers, but I know that the ride has been thrilling on this end, and I am very grateful to both you and Jodi for allowing us to experience the epistolary adventure as participants.

    Your contributions to all of us in this present will be exceeded only by the greater, far-reaching impact you will have on readers and writers worldwide, both in the near future when you publish the final piece and for generations to come, when Piper’s Reach will be recognized as a model for discarding literary trends and traditions and creating, through synthesis and pure courage, a new approach to a timeless form of storytelling.

    You have paved a new path with Piper’s Reach, and I, for one, look forward to traveling it often with words of my own.

    Thank you, Adam and Jodi.

    • Rus,
      thanks for your kind words; you have been one of the driving forces for Jodi and I had to keep us writing. We feel very privileged to have wonderful readers who have come along on the journey.
      We certainly are aiming to take Piper’s Reach to as wide an audience as we can, and we hope it translates to a complete whole from serialised fiction.

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