The End (or not)

Finally, finally you type “The End.” 

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Lord have mercy, it’s done!!! I thought I’d never make it. All those many long years, weekends and nights spent writing while my friends went to the theatre, gave dinner parties, traveled to all parts of the world, in other words, lived their lives while I was stuck in someone else’s or in a version of my own past. And now, I’m free!

Elated you shutdown the computer and take a walk around the neighborhood. The fresh air, the sun, the birds singing, even the neighbors you pass, no one knows the elation within you.  How can they?  They’re not crazy like you. 

CrazyWriterThen you send your draft off to early readers.You know, those folks who’ve stuck with you through the years of shitty first drafts, unrelenting self-doubt and abject paranoia. It’s unkind, of course, to expect them to suffer through yet another draft but they asked for it.  Or maybe they didn’t and you just imagined their glee at finally being able to read the completed masterpiece.  (By the way, the technical term for what you’re going through is “Euphoric Self-Delusion” or ESD.)

Days go by and your email only contains offers to prepay for your funeral (appropriate). But because you’re afflicted with ESD you begin to think your masterpiece is ready for the editor. 

And then it comes. The first bullet over the deck.  “Just finished your book,” your early reader says. Blah, blah, blah (the nice things).  You can now relax but only for a second. “However,” she concludes, “that’s it?”

“What do you mean ‘that’s it’?”  You type back.

“The ending is too abrupt.  What happened to the character after the trial?”

elephantYou’re now standing on a high dive thirty feet above a pool that looks shallow, teetering on one toe while an elephant decides whether to bounce along side of you.

“I’m not done?  How can that be?  You want more?’

The answer “yes.”

You have no more.  For you the story ended where it ended and yet you’re a writer with low sales and a publisher constantly telling you “write what the readers want” therefore you will cave.


… until the reviews roll in and you realize you should have trusted your own instincts.

How about you? Has lack of self-confidence ever forced you to make a decision you later regretted?

Graphics from Bing Images

28 thoughts on “The End (or not)

  1. Jan – you are doing it – writing, writing, and writing some more and your stories are real and most people can relate to them. I am so inspired by your writing, your sense of humor, your not putting the pen down because of lack of others out there willing to comment on things or something like that… Bird by bird, thought by thought, word by word. Beginning is the hard part for me, not ending and carving out time to really write. Self confidence, self doubt does hold me back sometimes, but time and time again, if I stick to something it usually leads to something else and perhaps an ending or possibly a new beginning 🙂

    1. Thanks Glyn. Poetry is all about instinct, don’t you think? I can’t imagine anyone criticizing your poetry but the world is comprised of all sorts, isn’t it?

    1. In their defense, if you’re writing to make money then they’re right. But if you want to write something you’ll be proud of you have to follow your own instincts.

  2. Agreed, Jan! Your instincts are the ones to trust! And although I haven’t read Willful Avoidance yet (it’s on my list!!), I’ve read and loved Flipka and The Graduation Present. You’re doing it right.

    1. Thanks Mary. People like the ending – they just point out that the story shifts from being rather intense to sweet. I haven’t heard from the early reader who made the “that’s it?” comment! That’s probably a good thing!

  3. I need you to know that I’m not laughing at you but this was funny in a scary sort of way. I hope you either find more to tell or your other early readers think it’s just right.

    1. It is funny how fast you can go from euphoria to panic! One of these days I hope I’ll be strong not to panic because of the opinion of my early readers!

  4. Jan, I don’t believe publishers know as much about the public’s reading appetite as they think they do. Of course that’s just me (Joe Public), but they are stuck in an office reading all day, it’s their job. And like most people with a job, your employer doesn’t really let you out to read (they can’t keep an eye on you that way), so you just read and criticize material that crosses your desk the way you’ve been conditioned to do. What I mean is, you have acclimated to what your boss expects. So when something new or different comes along, if it doesn’t cater to what your boss expects to read (because you don’t want to be regarded suspiciously by your boss as being an employee who has lost his knack for givinn your employer what he wants) you decide to cave in, and you go along with what you know he’ll expect. After all, you don’t want to lose your job. Thus he gets what he expects from you… the usual tripe that crosses his desk. In other words, nothing new. As a result, your poetry needs to conform to what a publisher THINKS the public wants—which is, more of the same. And its not right, but what do I know—I’m just Joe Public. ;o)

  5. You’re right – the experts often miss the boat. I extremely grateful to my publisher – they have been amazingly supportive. I just have to keep in mind that what works for some genres (romance, erotica) doesn’t necessarily work for whatever the heck I’m writing!

  6. Three things come to mind Jan with this post–first, Seth Godin once wrote a terrific little piece about how not everybody is going to get your work. And that’s okay. It’s never going to be like casting a wide net, capturing all readers and satiating all appetites. Which brings me to number two: listening to a terrific podcast today on The Accidental Creative, the topic was ‘when writing, one must have a clear visual for who your intended audience is.’ Could be one person – like Stephen King writes for his wife. But listening to that helped to elevate my confidence for the process of writing. And lastly, I love how your humor shines through when you’re telling your tales. You have a special knack. Of this, you should be confident. 😉

    1. Aw, you’re so kind. Thank you so much. Interesting notion – to have the one person in mind instead of a whole group. I like it!

  7. This is a great story after the story. Hope you don’t regret too much.

    The legal thriller theme of your book is REALLY good. Stayed up until1:00 a.m. to see what happened in tax court. I wouldn’t be surprised to discover people who like the ending just as you’ve written it.

    The big question is: what are you coming up with next? Cheers —

    1. Thanks J.B.! It’s a fine line when you ask for someone’s honest opinion and they give it. I enjoyed writing the ending, I have to admit. (a lot of the legal thriller parts were definitely hard work.) Working on a sequel to Flipka.

  8. The bit that got me was the emails for funeral services. Now that is a worry. Some one is definitely telling you something Jan. Or something. I seem to get ones to make your own greetings cards, focusing on Get Well. Maybe that is a pre stage to the funeral? But I haven’t finished my wip yet so perhaps funerals are the next stage.

  9. Every. Darned. Time. One of the best things age has brought me is the ability to trust my own judgment and listen to that little voice that says “no, you really ARE right.”

  10. Sometimes it’s good to leave readers hanging. I guess it might come down to how many people give the same feedback. I have so many doubts over my own writing, but never with my editing work. Strange how all that works out. Slowly, I’m coming back into my own with making friends with the writing process. I just need to get on with it!

  11. Intriguing. I hate caving and writing to order. Probably that’s why I haven’t published anything yet. :p Wishing you a more trusting publisher. The last quote is so cool that I’ll reblog it sooner or later and link to you, if you don’t mind. Here’s to own instinct.

    1. I think it’s a balancing act – early reader feedback is absolutely crucial but you have to be able to integrate it without losing your direction. I’m not sure I’ll ever get the knack of it but it’s nice to know I’m not alone! I stole the quote from somewhere else so feel free to steal from me!

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