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Thursday, November 1, 2007

The End

How do those words make you feel? At the end of a good movie or book, they can bring a sigh, a sense of satisfaction. At the end of the move Bridget Jones’ Diary, when Bridget and Mark Darcy finally share that first real kiss, her in her underwear, the snow falling gently around them—I always want to cry out “Not yet! It’s just getting good!” (Thank God for sequels!). At the end of Gone With the Wind, when Scarlet O’Hara tells us that “after all, tomorrow is another day” I have that lingering sense of unfinished business.

JK Rowling uses the line “all was well” to wrap up her Harry Potter series. A definite sigh of satisfaction after reading that (or maybe it’s just exhaustion, considering how long the last two books were!)

But what about when it’s your baby? Your characters you’re sending off into the sunset? How do those words make you feel then—even if most writers don’t actually type them out. The End. Over. Finished. Kaput. You’ve raised your characters, taught them well and sent them off into the world like wee baby birds to try out their wings. Your time with these people, whom you’ve lived and loved vicariously through, has come to an end.

I suppose I should feel a sense of relief, a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction. But it seems just about the time I hand that envelope off to the mail lady –she, tugging, because I can’t quite let go, and looking at me like I’ve lost my mind—or as I sit there, finger poised and trembling over that “send” button that will electronically zap a copy off to my editor—I panic! Wait! They’re not ready yet! I’m not ready to let go!

We spend years, sometimes months even, with these people. And while they may not be real in the flesh and blood sense, they are very much alive to the writer who creates them, and hopefully, the reader who embraces them.

For me, I don’t think it’s ever over. I still think of Tucker and Holly when I drive past a Christmas tree farm. I think of Derek when I see a flashy sports car drive by. And there’s an actress on TV that reminds me a lot of Kelly. I can’t even hear the words “cowboy” or “gunfighter” without Raz Colt taking over my mind, or hear Owen Wilson’s voice without the smooth-talking Kip Cooper (who reminds me very much of Mr. Wilson –without the psychological issues, I hope!) springing to my thoughts. With the exception of Cooper, who is clamoring for his own story even now, these characters’ stories are written. Over and done with. So why are they still haunting me? Why is it so hard to let go?

How do you feel when you’ve reached the end of a WIP?

3 comments:

Christine Koehler said...

How do I feel, that's a good question. I'd say it's a mix - relief, because I find wrapping everything up the hardest part of the story (I tend to want to keep going).

Anxiety - is it really any good? Will anyone but me like it? Oh, wait, did I add in...?

Energized - now I can go back and edit even more! I tend to have to edit as I write, I can't leave it to the end. I've tried, believe me I have, but it just doesn't work. But now, despite all my previous edits, I can do even more! I love cutting stuff. Of course, I love adding stuff just as much.

Susan Macatee said...

With my last story I felt surprised that I'd come to the end already. I somehow hadn't realized I was that close to the Happily Ever After.

It does feel sad to let characters you've grown to love go, but sometimes, like with my time travel romance, the revisions never seem to end.

I guess I'm mixed. It's fun to move on and create new characters that I'll grow to love just as much.

Jennifer Linforth said...

Wow. I can relate to this. I just met my first editor and while excited I feared for my characters a bit... are they ready to 'grow up' and meet the 'big world' of the bookstores? Silly of me... they must be ready if I reached this milestone. Right? (Must be the Mom in me...)

But we are connected to them, and I do feel a bit sad when a WIP ends. I am sure that sadness turns into excitment when they come back to you in book form!

And I do enjoy tightening my books and look forward to the editing process, so you never really let them go. Readers get to play with them next!

Jennifer

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