Tuesday, 23 September 2008

When it all ends

This morning I completed the first draft of my WIP. It needs major surgery and it's definitely the proverbial sow's ear rather than the silk purse, but at least the skeleton of the story's there now, and anyway, how many first drafts aren't a bit grotty?

What I wanted to post about today, though, is the crisis of confidence I always have whenever I'm finishing up a book. From what I understand, a large proportion of writers really enjoy getting to the end of a piece, while others dislike endings because the prospect of parting with their characters saddens them. The ones I don't hear much about are the writers like me: the ones who hate endings because that's when their personal demons come out to play and tell them that the creation they just devoted X amount of time to reeks to high heaven.

Logically, I know it's an overreaction (as I said, what first draft doesn't need improvement?), and one that mars what should be a positive feeling of achievement, but am I the only one who experiences this end-of-draft malaise? Is anyone else troubled by the gremlin at such times?


Len Tyler said...

Dear Faye,

I'm definitely with you on this one. I get the same feeling at the same point. What exactly is the process that turns the masterpiece we were writing yesterday into the dross on the page today?

Or as somebody else (not MNW) once put it:

"It is not upon you alone that the dark patches fall
The dark threw its patches upon me also
The best I had done seem'd to me blank and suspicious
My great thoughts as I supposed them, were they not in reality meagre?"

I guess the problem is that most novels will stand one reading; a good novel will stand two or three; a great one a few more. But by the time we finish a draft we have read it dozens, maybe hundreds, of times. It's bound to feel a bit thin and unoriginal.

So yes, an over-reaction, but a common one, I think.

Still, having today sent off both corrected proofs of one book and the final draft of another, I definitely sympathise with what you are feeling!

Tim Stretton said...

My overwhelming feeling is relief: it may be crap, but at least I've finished it. (Of course, I haven't "finished" at all...). I always have the irrational fear that I'll forget the ending until I've actually written it down.

The current WiP may be a different. I've been fighting down the nausea that it's dross all the way through, and only the momentum of carrying on keeps me from reflecting too deeply on it. Once I get to the end of the first draft, I fear that the full panoply the disaster will be arrayed before me...

David Isaak said...

Ah, I live with the fear all the way through. The ending is the least of my problems. Every step of the way I've been wondering if the thing isn't crap.

At the end, I'm comforted by the fact that, if it's crap, at least I'm finished and can walk away. It's the fear of Crap-in-Progress that eats at me.

David Isaak said...

Damn--my comment looks a lot like the first paragraph of Tim's doesn't it?

That'll teach me not to read down the page before typing.

Matt Curran said...

Mmmm. When the keyboard finally falls silent, I sometimes get a crisis of confidence too. I hesitate in sending it out, and only deadlines, as in the case of Macmillan New Writing, forces me to release the book at all.

Short stories, for example, have not seen the outside world in over 15 years, simply because I'm not sure if they're any good (I know they're good enough for friends and family, but that's different - it's not the Unknown).

I think what drives me on is the fact I am published, and that I have made it into print which means someone out there has confidence in my abilities, and that's enough. What I do to keep that belief is to ensure that each work is better than the previous. At least that way I know that if it does suck, then it sucks less than something that's already been published - so I must be doing something right!

Eliza Graham said...

I always despair over the gap between what was in my imagination and what ended up on paper. Len's quotation is so right. I often end up actually disliking my characters. 'Stop whinging, you miserable little [blanks]. Sort yourselves out.'

Faye L. said...

Thanks everyone for your insights - sorry for the delay in responding, but my internet connection was playing silly buggers. Although I obviously don't relish the thought of any of you having crises of confidence, it is a relief to know that I'm not the only one who has them.

Len, I love that quote. (Whitman, isn't it?)

Len Tyler said...

I wish I could claim it was mine but, yes that's right, Walt Whitman (Crossing Brooklyn Ferry).

Faye L. said...

I'm rather fond of Whitman's Animals, although anyone who thinks that no non-human is maniacal about owning things has clearly never met my dogs...