Endings are hard.
Any chapped-ass monkey with a keyboard can poop out a beginning, but endings are impossible. You try to tie up every loose end, but you never can. The fans are always gonna bitch. There's always gonna be holes. And since it's the ending, it's all supposed to add up to something. I'm telling you, they're a raging pain in the ass.
— Chuck Shurley
I watched that episode a few years ago and just came to a conclusion recently. Chuck was right. Endings are friggen hard. As I typed out the last words on a first draft of the WIP I've been tapping on the past year I had a hard time churning.
In short, it sucked.
It sucked because I was leaning into it. Trying to cross the finish line. I'm not accustomed to having to lean while writing. It usually just comes to me.
Not this time.
After I set my laptop down and crawled into bed I started to try and analyze what went wrong. Was this a bad story? Am I wasting my time? Did I get all the threads tied up neatly? (hint: I didn't)
All this stuff I was able to ignore for the bulk of the time while writing this novel decided to crowd my thought process as I was typing out the last few paragraphs. So much so that I sat in bed for about an hour before I was able to sleep because I was frustrated with the way I had written the ending. It was garbage. It didn't make any sense. Not a lick of it. Why had I bothered writing it?
When I woke this morning I had managed a sliver more of clarity. (thankfully)
The ending to this story. The ending of life. The ending of our friendships. The ending of our careers. We are taught from birth to fear and loath endings.
In short, of course it was fricken hard. It's supposed to be.
I have a hard time loving my stories. I write a little then I think a little. Rinse, repeat. I come up with a good idea, then I supplant that with a better one. I change setting, character backstory, plot, you name it. All the while I am falling in love with it. Sometimes that love is deep and profound, like with The Wired Man.
Sometimes it's difficult, like with the 2 novels I wrote after I finished The Wired Man. In both of those cases I started in love and finished with a feeling closest to faded attachment. I still loved the ideas but that was cut with a nagging feeling that I hadn't done either of them justice.
I put both those books down. I may write them again. I may not. We'll see.
This one wasn't either of those.
This one was a feeling of fatigued tension. This story is far from perfect, much more fluid than The Wired Man. It will change, it will morph, it may not even stay in the same general shape as it is now. But there is something there. Underneath all the layers, characters, settings, and events is the current of a good story.
I wrote this novel a bit different in an effort to recapture how I wrote The Wired Man. With The Wired Man I had a good idea, a good ending and I filled in the rest. The fleshing out was hard at times due to no clear direction aside from get to the ending but through many drafts it seemed to grow itself to a logical conclusion.
The following two novels I wrote I plotted out. Page after page of backstory, outline, dates, names, structured and restructured over and over until I was happy with the story.
The problem I found with that approach was though I like the story in a condensed fashion, the full implementation was not jiving with my inner "spidey sense".
Every paragraph I write has to "feel" right. There's no quantifiable aspect to it. Either it does, or I find a different direction to go. I've had many cases where the words wouldn't come but the direction felt right. Those times were hard but it never felt like I had taken the wrong exit.
When writing with an outline I had several instances where I didn't feel right about the direction but couldn't change it without rewriting the outline. That distracted me, so much so that I put both attempts down in favor of returning to the old approach.
This brings me to my current WIP. I wrote the whole thing with a concept and an ending. Everything else I let the story decide. I don't know if it worked but I do know that it feels much better than the last two.
Right or not, it was exhausting finishing the last chapter of this book. It was exhausting finishing the last chapter of The Wired Man. Every time I get to the end I begin to sputter, my writing engine running out of oil to lubricate the pistons of my mind.
This is why finishing is so god damned hard for me. It's not because all the characters are stagnant through the progression of the story, or the fact that the plot leaks more dirt than a rusty colander. It's because finishing a cathedral is terrifying. Not because of what you've built, but because of what you have yet to build once you finish.
I have a hard time because this isn't really finishing.
It never is.
I remember finishing The Wired Man the first time. I cut it short because I was so sick of waiting, wondering what the story would look like. I was so sure I had a good idea that I ended at 20k words. I was so relieved when I was able to send it off. I was done! It was over!
3 more novels and still not a shred of published copy.
The fight will never really end. That's the beauty and the curse of endings. You'll take a second at the end to breath, then you'll hammer the cross into the ground over the thing you were working on, declare it dead and march on down the road. Whether or not someone digs what you buried is their call but you're not finished.
As Chuck says:
No doubt-endings are hard. But then again...Nothing really ever ends, does it?