Actually, sending your book into the world does feel like a birth, and – as with a preponderance of women – post-partum depression can set in. After all, the characters are people you have created and lived with for a long time. I remember when my first book, Widow’s Walk, was finished, I postponed handing it over to my agent until she called with a “now or never” ultimatum. Cradling my precious pages, I walked into her office, surrendered them, and fled before she could see my shameful tears. I didn’t know then what a common syndrome this is. It doesn’t even seem to matter for the moment that your book is hopefully going out into the world to be read by thousands (millions?) of strangers, It’s an illogical reaction, but how logical is it to be a writer in the first place, given the frustrating publishing scene?
Many of us find an adroit way to avoid reaching that finishing line. Simply don’t finish! Create a problem for yourself with the final pages and there you are, safely stymied forever. I did that with my first short story. When the two brightest members of my writing group disagreed over the last line – one of them saying it was “perfect,” the other arguing for the “penultimate” one – I was thrown into such a state of indecision that the story sat on my desk for five years! It was finally published, but I don’t remember which line won out.
With my new book, Role Play, I agonized over the ending and changed it at least seven times. I was tempted to emulate John Fowles, who gave The French Lieutenant’s Woman two entirely different endings. (Can’t choose between mango and pistachio? Have both!) Then there’s Margaret Mitchell, who let readers fret over whether Scarlett gets Rhett back, rather than supplying her own forecast. Sort of like deciding not to decide.
In the end (literally) I gave Role Play an ambiguous finale, leaving readers to write the postscript for themselves. I just hope I won’t get irate letters along the lines of, ”How could you…?” On the other hand, that would mean people are reading it!
The only remedy I find for all this angst is to turn on the computer and begin another book.
[What’s your experience with endings? Share at firstname.lastname@example.org]
TEN WOMEN OF VALOR – ditto
TURNING TOWARD TOMORROW – xLibris.com