Friday, February 20, 2009

The Emotions of Ending a Book

image It’s true: I love the craft of my endings. Endings are fun in a sort of intellectual way, but I always end my stories with a freak-out then a sense of resigned failure.

It’s inescapable that with each book, you learn more. You see more. Hopefully, you improve with each book. You’re a better writer with each book.

The downside is that every preceding book is not quite as good as the one that follows. You can minimize this effect with editing, but you can’t escape it completely.

So… it’s depressing, sort of. I don’t know.

It’s not that I can say something is wrong. Everything I want is there. I’ve cleaned it all up. I’ve tied it up. I even like my ending.

From the bird’s eye view, plot-wise, the threads all work. It’s as tight as I can make it.

I succeeded in all I set out to do. I even improved what I was hoping to improve. And I’ve learned with this book.

image Still, I always end with a sense of failure. I struggle, I procrastinate, I hide from my WIP, and finally I settle down to finish it.

With a sort of resigned, “You’ll do better next time.” Or “Better luck next time.”

Usually, with distance, these stories improve immensely. Thank God.

But on to the next story! The promise of a new story sure is refreshing after ending an old one! I love embracing the shiny new idea! A brand new chance to write a better story! A brand new chance to be a better writer!

I love beginnings!

What about you? Do you have any of these feelings?

17 bonus scribbles:

Edie 2/20/2009 10:48:00 PM  

I do love the promise of a shiny new story. But I don't feel a sense of failur with the book I just finished. It's only after time has passed and my writing has improved that I can see the last book isn't as good as I could have written it.

Right now, I want to go back and rewrite about a half dozen books and make them better. And I would, but those shiny new ideas keep getting in my way, enticing me.

Robin 2/20/2009 11:45:00 PM  

I love endings, but I always want to rush them! I wish I could revel in them, so I could take the time to do them justice.

Barbara Martin 2/21/2009 01:04:00 AM  

I don't have a sense of failure at all with my writing. Sometimes I tend to think my work isn't as good as what is available and already published, but I never think of my writing in any way as being a failure.

The endings on my stories can always be better to give the reader satisfaction in that was how it ought to have turned out. As I'm working on a series of stand-alones that interconnect the endings have to be complete for that story.

Spy, I think you need to dwell on the thought of all the stories you have published, that you were able to provide them endings. The next story will be wonderful with a nice tidy ending too.

spyscribbler 2/21/2009 01:45:00 AM  

That's great, Edie! I always do. I'm one of those plateau learners... I can see the problems, I can fix them, but they don't feel right unless they're integrated into the beginning and sub-conscious of the next project. It's just how I learn.

So every book, I end knowing what I can improve, but unable to make it organic. I can only apply the fixes, you know?

spyscribbler 2/21/2009 01:45:00 AM  

Oooh, Robin, I wish I would revel in them, too! Instead I grumble and groan and mutter under my breath, LOL!

spyscribbler 2/21/2009 01:47:00 AM  

Very true, Barbara! Good advice, that. I actually don't mind my ups and downs too much. They keep me motivated. :-)

Those stand-alones with interconnecting endings sound fantastic, Barbara! I'm trying to imagine the structure, but I'm intrigued!

Bevie 2/21/2009 07:22:00 AM  

I hate beginnings because I have a tendency to infodump in them.

None of my stories begin with a beginning. Virtually all of them start with an ending, and I backstory to a place where it all began.

When I finish I don't necessarilly feel I've failed. (That happens when the rejection slips begin arriving.) However, I am filled with a sense of loss. Now I have to find something new to write.

I'm with Robin. I like endings.

Pink Ink 2/21/2009 08:47:00 AM  

I'm like Bevie. I started my WIP with a strong ending in mind, and now that I am writing towards it, I cannot wait. It will be a great relief and sense of achievement.

That said, I know what you mean about the sense of loss. Because then I will have to say goodbye to some characters.

I wonder if you'd feel the same way with a series...

Kath Calarco 2/21/2009 10:40:00 AM  

I've never felt failure when typing "The End". Rather, I felt sad that I was no longer hanging out with my characters. I always miss them. I shed tears, as if I'm sending them off to kindergarten, or on a lengthy trip.

I feel that completion is a triumph. After all, think of those who try to write and never finish one ms. It's not as easy as people think.

Travis Erwin 2/21/2009 12:15:00 PM  

Beginnings and endings are fun. It's queries I hate.

Caryn Caldwell 2/21/2009 01:16:00 PM  

Oh, yes. I definitely get those same feelings. I think part of it is that I've already started to think about the next story. When I'm finishing one story, I can remember all the mistakes and worry and wonder about what I've written. But the next story is still this beautiful, perfect, hypothetical thing. There's no way what I've just written can ever compare to what I could write next. And then, of course, I begin the new story and the cycle happens all over again.

Charles Gramlich 2/21/2009 01:25:00 PM  

I always feel a sense of "loss" when finishing a book, but I don't think it has any sense of failure in it. I strongly suspect you are being too harsh on your own work. Sometimes we writers aren't the best judges of whether we succeeded overall with a story or not.

Melanie Avila 2/21/2009 01:29:00 PM  

I don't think I've finished enough pieces to really say. So far I've typed The End twice, and with my memoir I knew I had more to say. With my current wip I'm thinking I'll just be relieved to move on to the next step.

Jill Wheeler 2/21/2009 01:42:00 PM  

I also prefer beginnings to endings! So much hope, so much potential. You haven't screwed it up yet.

That said, I'm sure your book is wonderful. And there is such a pleasure in knowing you've grown as a writer.

Sarah Laurenson 2/21/2009 02:04:00 PM  

The book I'm ending now is much better than the one that just came before it. I want to go back and fix the one before. I'm not sure how except to sit down and rewrite the whole thing.

I figure the next book will have me cringing about what the current book looks like.

Angie 2/21/2009 03:34:00 PM  

Ooooh, yeah, LOL! My current WIP has been stalled for like a month, within a few chapters of the end. I was cranking out three chapters a week, and then it all came to a screeching halt. [headdesk] I've got to finish this one. I have very patient readers waiting for me, and besides I owe it to myself; when I finish this (when, not if) it'll be the first novel-length story I've ever finished. I need to do this.

But right now I'm staring at the screen, paralyzed. Dammit. :(


Georgie B 2/21/2009 05:08:00 PM  

Interesting thoughts here about beginnings.

When I first started to write short stories, almost every single one of them started with a false ending, which I then spent the remainder of the story writing up to, then beyond, the false ending.

As for the actual ending of the story, while I may sound upbeat through most of the story, more often than not it nosedives into an ending that is, for want of a better turn, "less than happy."

However, the beauty of rewriting these stories for my latest WIP is that I can make the endings not so depressing.

For overall happiness though, nothing beats flash fiction, which I'm happily getting into after pooh poohing it for most of my young writing career.