A strange thing happens to me when I’m writing and I near the end of a story. I tend to slow down, or stop all together for a time. It happens in almost every novel length story that I write. I get three quarters or so through the story, and I start delaying tactics.
It’s not because I don’t know how the story ends. I always know the main plot points to my stories before I start. Endings are big with me. I may not know all the twists and turns my characters will lead me on during the journey, but I know how it ends. I usually have a little movie of the ending in my head before I start the book. The ending sometimes seems clearer than the beginning.
I’ve got a couple theories for why I slow down. One is purely emotional. I get attached to my characters. Sure they’ll always be there on the pages, but I hate saying goodbye to them. I live their lives with them, and then I have to say goodbye. Ending a book is always a mixture of triumph and bereavement. Yay, I’m done! Oh, damn, I’m done.
But that isn’t all of it. I think the biggest reason that I slow down or even stop before I get to the end is that I worry about what book is coming next. I think most writers do that. What if the idea closet is empty? What if the muse well has run dry? What if that was the last good story idea I get?
So far, I’ve written five novel length fictions and the idea closet has never run dry. But I’ve never finished one of those stories without knowing what the next one will be. That’s what does it for me. That’s how I get those books finished. Sometime in the last quarter of the book, I figure out what the next one will be.
Then it’s ok. Then I can finish the book. Then I have a new story to look forward to, and new people to play with. I just finished the first draft of Wyrd House, and I know what the next story is. It came to me about a week ago. The idea for the next story. It combines two loves of mine, theatre and disasters. Man is it going to be fun! I need a break from Wyrd House before I do a little polishing. I think I’ll start the new one tomorrow. The idea grew out of a short story I wrote, and I think it will steal that story’s name. Descending.
So, if any of you have trouble finishing that book, try doing what I do. Take a nice long walk, or drive your cat to the vet. Think about the next tale that wants to be told. Get excited about starting that new project. Then buckle down and finish the one you’ve got.
Thank you for sharing how your writer’s mind works. I’m like you–I usually have a pretty clear idea of the ending but what happens before that is up in the air. What’s worse than ending a book is killing off a character you love–one you didn’t expect to die. I frantically searched for other things to make the story end differently. but it had to be. Every time I re-read the story for editing I got equally depressed–for days. I would find myself wandering around miserable and suddenly think–Hey, life’s going okay, but character is dead. Sigh.
I’ve been known to kill off my sweeties from time to time. I once killed of a much beloved character in a story posted serially, and it was shocking how many emails I got about it. There are, perhaps, some characters that I couldn’t kill, but I seem to take a wicked glee in killing them sometimes. My fiancé says that I’m bloodthirsty, but that’s only in video games and literature.
That said, I rarely kill characters other than the big bad. It can be easy to kill them off, and more difficult to make the story interesting and/or emotional without killing anyone off. It all depends on the specific tale.
I don’t think I’ve killed off any bad people yet. Since my stories are about family, I feel it’s more believable to make the jerk of a brother or mother live on to do more damage!
It’s funny because one secondary character dies and my readers split down the middle–some cheer and some mourn for him/her.