Since it’s the New Year and this is a new blog — the first post ever! — I should probably write about beginnings, but instead I’m writing about endings. And not how to write them but what it’s like to write them.
With short stories and poems, I’ve always felt a real sense of triumph when I got an ending right — like a gymnast landing on the mat, throwing her arms up in the air, grinning that grin, feet not wobbling a millimeter. I was smiling at imaginary camera flashes, accepting imaginary roses, happy for any kind of medal anyone cared to drape around my neck.
But finishing the novel was different because the novel’s a different animal, partly because it’s longer but also because it just takes so much more time. It lives so long in your mind and your heart, it becomes real, like a velveteen rabbit.
I’d spent nearly three years with four main characters, traveling with them on one of the most intimate journeys I’d ever been on. I exposed my characters’ wounds, dredged their hopes, pushed them, fought with them, had sex with them, got drunk with them, got high with them, danced with them, tore them apart took them down into darkness and dared them to rise into light. I loved them.
As I wrote the last ten pages, I was weeping, partly because the ending itself is a mix of grief and hope but mostly because I was coming to the end of something so meaningful to me. I wrote the last line. And then it was over, and I’d cried so hard my shirt was soaked.
I had to go change my shirt, and then I had to mourn.
Not until I’d done that could I come back to the pages to do the technical work I still needed to do: sanding, cutting, adding a bit here, thinning a little there, smoothing and planing. Not the kind of work you can ever do to someone you love, but the kind you do to a thing, an object. A piece of work.
It’s a good ending: I stuck it; I know I did. I can smile at the imaginary cameras, accept the imaginary roses. But I think if any medal’s draped around my neck it won’t be gold or silver but a kind of writer’s purple heart, or maybe one of those old mourning brooches, made of jet and wound with strands of hair from the beloved.