So, I wrote a book about a year ago (don’t worry, I’m not going to blog about the endless – erm, let’s say – adventures of trying to place a book with a literary agent/publisher when you’re new to the market and your story involves neither crime nor erotic intent) and for the first time in my writing life I understood why there are so many famous quotes centred on writing The End.
It was actually watching Dune in the cinema that brought this thought to mind. There’s a famous Frank Herbert quote – “There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story” – that I’ve long known but have only recently come to appreciate from the perspective of a writer (in my heart, I’m a reader who writes still).
Stephen King (who’s always great for a reference) has few paragraphs at the end of The Dark Tower series that often come to mind when I’m reading commercial-fiction novels, essentially about how stories are about journeys and not endings (too often – at least to my mind – thriller writers miss this essential point, and it’s usually the defining characteristic between good and bad).
Many, many other great writers express wonderful and insightful thoughts about writing The End, and if you’re the sort of person who loves reading your quotes yet hasn’t come across any on this subject, I’d recommend having a nose around on Google for twenty/thirty minutes (if nothing else it will improve the quality of the targeted advertising you receive).
I’m sure many people people who stumble onto my blogs, which are essentially about the love of writing/reading, have written their share of short stories; maybe you too have boxes in a closet somewhere, filled with notebooks, jottings, half-attempts and pages with the literary merit of a toilet paper (and not even the good kind – that cheap stuff, which doesn’t actually end up saving you any money because you need to use half a roll too… – well, because you need to use half a roll) so I’ve doubt there are few strangers to writing The End here.
There was something really different though, when it came to bringing 80,000 words to a close. After all the editing, the re-writes, the feedbacks, the further re-writes, crises of confidence (and I’m full sure I’ll be revisiting this step many times in my continuing attempts to make it to print) – well, after all that and much, much more, I just struggled to bring the story to a close – I had this overwhelming feeling that I was losing something by drawing that final scored line under the piece.
In a very real way, the feeling was like the ending of a love affair, which even if you’ve never held a pen is an emotion that every person can relate to; you fight hard against the dying of the light, even when your love demands a bad ending.
That was something else I came to understand from my novel writing adventures: some stories just have bad endings. Even with an authors omnipotence, every story develops in its own way; we might try to fight against the tide as it flows, but in a real way, the story being told dictates the ending it leads to, even if that is a dark place.
From my limited (and very amateur) experience, I’ve discovered that with every additional line I write in a story, the plot and End move further and further beyond my control…
Actually, that’s a point. It’s time to stop.
Here is a picture of some Penguins.