Saturday, November 14, 2009

Making it to the end of a novel

As I sit struggling to complete my current novel, and as I reflect on Diana's novel, it occurs to me that "The End" is a difficult piece of the writing.  For Diana, she didn't end.  She ran out of pages.  The story just stopped - until the next one.  I don't mind that quite so much as, say, Anne Rice, who leaves you hanging at the end of her stories.  I'll never forget reading the Vampire Lestat and at the end of the novel, the Queen of the Damned climbs into Lestat's coffin.  What??  That's the end??? What happens then?  YOU CAN'T DO THAT TO ME!  She has done that in several of her books, in fact in The Witching Hour, I swore I wouldn't read another one of her books because of the fast switch at the end of the novel and the hanging ending.  That novel was too long not to finish (but I did read Lasher, the sequel).

For my part, I can finish the story.  I can wrap up the loose ends, but it's difficult to get to that point because you become so involved in your characters, your story.  The end means a parting of the ways.  They move away to a different state, in a manner of speaking.  You can revisit, and sometimes they come back to star in a subsequent novel, but it still marks the end of an era.  Bittersweet.  Some friends do that when they read.  They don't rush through a book, they read as slowly as possible to savor every word, every moment with the characters because the end is . . . well . . . the end.

Another reason writers postpone "The End" is that it means then they have to move on to the next one.  Generally I have the next one sketched out - a very rough outline on one page, of characters, motivation, general plot lines, and quite often I'm already putting down rough chapters.  But if that subsequent story isn't flowing, there's a certain amount of "I can't finish this one until I have somewhere new to go."  It's an excuse, and a classic case of procrastination, and yet it is what it is.  Outside distractions can also keep you from putting down that final chapter.

One of the girls that babysat me when I was growing became an author - Mary Doria Russel, The Sparrow.  She came "home" last weekend and one of the things she said was that it made a huge difference to have a husband who could support her so she could spend her time writing (reminder:  being an author is NOT a lucrative careeer, unless you're JK Rowling).  For those of us that are still in the working world, we have those other responsibilities that fight for our time, and that creates one more excuse not to finish a novel (although a much better one than the ones previously outlined).  I tell you what - a contract in hand would be a mighty strong motivator! 

But until then, I just plod along, setting a more leisurely pace.  My current work in process, tentatively titled Giselle, will be finished, and the next one will get started.  I'm still shopping Epitaph around and with the positive feedback I'm getting, I feel pretty good that someone will like it enough to take a chance with it, and when that happens, my pace will pick up again with renewed vigor and interest, like a new relationship, until I reach the point where I don't want to stop again, and postponing The End means I'm still writing, and still living with my characters - for a little while longer.


  1. Endings are also the hardest part for me. Not so much because it's "the end", because I know I can do a sequel, but my plots are kinda complicated and wrapping things up takes days of thinking - if not During a story, a writer does make certain promises to the reader and I feel obligated to make the ending as satisfying as possible.

  2. The end of your book sells the next one, so it has to be good ... not a cliffhanger, but enough so a reader feels satisfied and wants more. Doesn't even have to be a sequel, it just has to resonate.

    I hate writing them.