The Momentum of “The End”

hey, I got to the end!

Today, I finished a first draft. I reached the end.

Not that ending things, particularly the way I write, deserves any fanfare — it’s should barely even suggest any kind of completion at all. My first drafts are, to be frank, a mess. Closer to “scriptments” (in the James Cameron mould), these first drafts are a sort of rough, stream-of-consciousness walk through what I expect the screenplay to be. I put down on paper everything that was going through my head when I was carding out.

It’s not always full formatted (in fact sometimes I avoid that in order to avoid lulling myself into a false sense of security). It has many gaps and self-directed notes in square brackets. It is full of ideas and thoughts that don’t work. Most importantly, perhaps, it is full of moments that I thought were clear, nailed down, solid, and which I now realise need a lot more thought.

Some people call this a vomit draft. That’s pretty accurate. I got to the end, and I certainly feel purged.

the momentum of endings

Nevertheless — and I’ve felt it today — there is a sort of emotional charge too. Writing THE END at the foot of that document just feels great. There’s a feeling of momentum to it, like reaching the crest of a hill. I’m probably feeling more excited about this script, despite all its problems, since I started outlining the idea a few weeks ago.

I’d say that this feeling is a little bit analogous to reaching the end of watching a film or reading a book. No matter how pedestrian the novel is you’ve been reading, no matter how you’ve struggled through it, as you reach the last few pages you begin to speed up. The momentum carries you forward as plot lines are resolved, characters are paid off, conclusions are reached.

There’s a reason why, structurally speaking, that last act is supposed to speed past in a flurry of quick cuts, short scenes, rat-a-tat-tat dialogue. It is built into the structure of experiencing stories (and writing stories) that we end things at pace.

Which is just to repeat the old saw: there’s no more fun part of writing than stopping.

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