As 2010 draws to a close, I’ve been thinking a lot about such endings. I just finished a marathon session of revisions on one of my novels, and one of the things it needed was a stronger ending, a sense of closure. Because it’s the first book in a series, it is also a beginning, so I had to carefully straddle tying up everything that came before with the promise of things to come.
Now that’s it’s done, I’m dealing with that special brand of postpartum blues only other writers understand.
For me, at least, there’s only an infinitesimal moment between basking in the incredible sense of completion and joy of that last line being written, and the onset of an oppressive and overwhelming sense of loss. I suspect that’s why a lot of us write series, to keep our imaginary friends alive. We come to know them so intimately—they have to really live for us for the magic of fiction to work—and then, poof, they’re gone: straight from the breast to leaving the nest.
I have a similar experience when I finish reading a wonderful book. If the author is good at what she does, she has made those characters real for me, that world a place where I’ve felt for a few hours I was actually within it. It’s why I also love reading a series, to keep the magic alive.
Eventually, though, everything has to end—but even in “real” life, every ending also marks the beginning of something else. It’s one of the reasons I love this time of year and the wintry celebrations, regardless of religious context, that mark the mystery of the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. (In the northern hemisphere, anyway; I imagine those of you from Down Under and other places south of the equator may take a somewhat different meaning from it!) Most of these holidays have a common theme: light in the darkness. We trust in the magic: the wheel of the year will turn, and the day will be reborn to swallow up the night. And those little lights in the darkness remind us that no matter how dark it gets, this, too, shall pass. Spring will come again, and there will be new stories to tell.
I'm trying to remind myself of this now. I do have new stories to tell, and many of the old familiar characters will live again. Even the revisions I’ve finished will ultimately lead to more beginnings: submissions, rejections, and eventually (one hopes!) acceptance for publication…and then the cycle of revisions will begin again. No story is ever really finished. What I need to learn to do is celebrate the literary endings the way I do the Winter Solstice, because without endings, the new beginnings cannot come.
When a new idea begins to germinate, and you write those first words, there’s nothing like it. It can be like opening a Christmas present…or Pandora’s Box. You never know exactly what you’re going to get, but the joy is in finding out, and diving into that “new relationship energy”—a blank page full of possibilities. There are usually only two things I know when I start a new story: how it begins, and how it will end. The rest is a magical journey.
So when I quench the candle, maybe I should light another, just a little light in the darkness as a reminder that the wheel keeps turning. (And maybe I should celebrate at The Zodiac in Kim Novak-black leggings and bare feet, and listen to a little Stormy Weather on the bongos. ;) )
I suspect I'm not the only one winding things up as the year comes to a close. Today is the last chance to mark "done" on last January's New Year's Resolutions. Every year, I tell myself I’m not going to make any, but every year I have a little list in my head anyway, and this year, I managed to achieve a few significant ones, including selling my first novella. What about you? Do you make resolutions? Do you keep them? What are you resolving to do when the bell tolls to ring in 2011?