Friday, December 14, 2007

The Two Hardest Words

Maven Jacqueline BarbourAnd no, I don't mean "I'm sorry."

I just got back from our elementary school's "Winter Program" performance. Our oldest son is in the fifth grade, and they were the last group to perform. As they were singing Let There Be Peace on Earth, it suddenly hit me that this is the last time I'll ever see this particular child on this particular stage. And I admit it, I got the teeniest bit weepy. Because I see the end of a phase in his life--in our lives--approaching.

I've been thinking a lot about endings in the past couple of days because I am almost finished with the novella I started a couple of weeks ago. In fact, with any luck, I should be writing the words "The End" on it today.

Yesterday, when I realized how close I was to the end, I realized that this will be the first manuscript I've completed since January (when I wrote another, slightly shorter novella in about two weeks). And although I do have a vague recollection of having finished a (terrible) novel when I was in junior high or maybe high school, the only other manuscript I've ever written through to "The End" is now gracing the Magical Mulch Pile.

What is it about endings? I seem to have an awfully hard time with them. It's not that I don't want to write "The End." But for some reason, it's something I find hard to do. Partly, perhaps, it's that I have so many stories I want to tell, I have a hard time sticking with one all the way through, but I don't think that's the only issue. I have a sneaking suspicion that the main reason is that I know when I finish the story, it's done. Over. Told.

Now, I know there is no first draft on earth that's really done. But still, there's something about seeing the characters through to their happily ever after that means saying good-bye to them. Their arcs are completed, their GMCs resolved, the plots wrapped up in neat little packages. All that's left to do (hopefully) is some tweaking around the edges and then send them out into the big, bad world (which, as we know, is a very subjective place fraught with peril).

So, just as it's hard for me to watch my oldest son growing out of one phase of his life into another (which is bound to be fraught with peril--we are talking about middle school here!), it's hard for me to allow my stories to grow up.

The good news is, I plan to write "The End" today, anyway, no matter how hard it is!

YOUR TURN: Do you find it hard to let your stories and your characters go? Or are "The End" the easiest two words for you?

9 comments:

Deanna Lee said...

Great post Jackie!

Before I was published, before I ever decided to actually try anything resembling a submissions process I had no problems writing "The End". Saying goodbye to characters didn't hurt because no matter what happens to them I feel like they'll always be mine.

After I started submitting work, I had a really hard time writing "The End". Because after I wrote those words I would force myself to send it out into the world... and risk very painful things like rejection.

It was far easier and definitely safer to have about twenty "almost" finished projects that I didn't have to worry about submitting anywhere.

Jacqueline Barbour said...

Wow, Deanna! I think I resemble that remark.

As long as I don't write "The End," I can't really succeed, but I can't really fail, either.

And you should be expecting something in the Cobblestone submissions inbox sometime next week ;).

Bill Clark said...

Endings are hard, I agree. Methinks it is partly because they represent an end to a chapter of our lives as well, and in the back of our minds we hear the inexorable drumbeat of Time marching on.

"For at my back I alwaies heare / Time's winged chariot drawing neare..."

(Marvell's marvellous "To His Coy Mistress")

But, of course, endings also clear the way for new beginnings, be they books, romances, or appearances on Middle School stages. Weep no more, my lady; the future still has wonderful things in store!

Shelli Stevens said...

I do wonder if there's some mental thing about typing the end. I agree with Deanna on the, once it's done it goes out, issue. Get's ready for perusal by the big guys.

Nice post! And congrats!!!!

Jennifer Linforth said...

I had a very hard time finishing my 4th manuscript. I was so connected to my hero and heroine I found myself wondering if I could make it a series. It was not just the characters I was connected to, but the history and setting

But I also felt accomplished. I have also come to realize it is not really over until your editor says it is over. *g* So I know I will be seeing those characters again down the line.(and I might want to kill them at times...)

I think I might have a hard time seeing my debut novel once it is released. Then I KNOW it is done. It is all grown up. I only hope I taught those characters well...

Carrie said...

OMG - I love the end! I never realized how much until I wrote The End on FHT. I think for me it was because I knew I had something special with that book and I was constantly terrified I'd mess it up. Add to that the fact I don't plot and I was always always always walking around with these characters and plot and having NO how or even if it would all come together.

Once I wrote the end I finally knew that I could make it all work, that it all fit together, and I could take all of that terror and those characters and the plot and kick them out of my head for a while.

Vicki said...

I don’t have a problem with writing the end, although I did laugh and cry when I wrote those words on my current manuscript. Partly because I knew I’d miss my H/H and even some of the secondary characters. No, it’s not ready to go out yet, so I will be still with them but it’s not quite the same. Now that everything is tied up. Polishing, fixing things, and cutting others are different now that I know the book from beginning to end.

Fear of failure is a big one for me. I love this story. It isn’t going under the bed to live with the dust bunnies as the first four did. But what if no else loves it??? That’s the biggest fear I have right now. :)

I’m with Bill, there are wonderful new beginnings awaiting you and your son. Yes, it is scary to send them off to middle school but only in the beginning. You will love seeing him on the slightly bigger stage.

So write the end today, polish it and get it ready to go out there. You see there are those of us who can’t wait to read it.

Maggie Robinson said...

I think I cheat. I often write the last chapter or epilogue before I am anywhere near it. And then getting there is MY problem! That is when I am truly suffering.

Writer & Cat said...

I have a lot of trouble writing "The End" but it isn't because I don't want to! I love writing it. I love being finished. Plus, when I write "The End", I feel a lot less guilty when the next words I write are "Once Upon A Time..."

Jody W.

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