Does Writing ‘The End’ Make You Feel Sad?

Does Writing ‘The End’ Make You Feel Sad?

Perhaps no event is more exciting for a writer than being able to type the end. From the moment we first touch an idea to paper, from the earliest outlining stages or the first paragraph written, we dream about finishing. And usually by the time we hit the final page, we’re good and ready to be done.

Some writers can pound out a novel in a month. But most of us require more time to pull our ideas from our heads and organize them in a logical fashion. My smaller projects (like Eternity’s Empire) usually take 6 months to complete. But my larger novel projects (such as Celestial Serenade and Aruvalia Chronicles) usually take 3 years from outlining to final polish. (Though that does include breaks so I can approach each pass with fresh eyes.)

Needless to say, we get comfortable with our worlds and characters. They become akin to friends. We visit for a day, a week or a month, and we get comfortable with the idea that house is always there. We can drive up any time we want, spend an afternoon basking in an event or a new worldbuilding concept and then go home and sleep in our own beds.

But all good things must eventually end. And while it can never be considered anything but a triumph to complete a book or series, it does come with a bitter sweet sensation. Because when you’re truly finished telling a story, it also means saying goodbye.

Like the books on our shelves, it’s always possible to go back and re-visit our worlds and characters. We never have to completely abandon their warmth and comfort. But since we often move on to new projects, it still means visiting those old favorites less and less often.

I Always Want More

I fully admit, I have trouble letting go. The last time I wrapped up a major series (the Celestial Serenade), I was midway through my final editing pass when my characters informed me of an entire trilogy’s worth of missing plot.

I was somewhat indignant at first. I made a promise to myself a long time ago that I would never let my stories go on for so long they became stale or overwrought. And 9 books feels like a pretty solid series.

But the idea for this extra story arc fit so perfectly with everything else that happened in the series, and filled in the one remaining hole in the series, that I simply couldn’t cast it aside. I even came up with a perfect title while I was trying to convince myself it could never be.

So I didn’t really finish that series. I set it on a shelf with a promise to come back as soon as I had a free moment in my schedule.

It wasn’t quite the same as saying goodbye.

I get attached. On the one hand, writing is my job – my business. And I need to treat it like work and an investment. Lots of indies are quick to remind other writers that your books are not your children.

But full disclosure – my stories are my babies. That doesn’t stop me from being ruthless and logical when I have to be. But it does make it hard to think of labeling something 100% finished and off limits for future access.

Even Dream Things True has a few secrets still lurking around in the back of my brain. I’m just not sure what form they’ll eventually take.

It’s Hard to Avoid Attachment

I started thinking about final endings because, a few days before writing this, I wrapped up final edits on the Eternity’s Empire series. The final book is done, formatted and uploaded for release. (By the time you read this, it will have already been available for most of a month.)

Setting the final words of that story in stone hit me a lot harder than any of the other stories I’ve wrapped up. I spent 6 years penning that story. And for the last 3 years, I have tried to finish at least 2 installments every year. The first book was 53,000 words long. The last was 77,000 words. The entire series rings in at 460,958 words.

I ate, slept and breathed that series for a long time. And while it is shorter and required less overall time to finish than some of my larger projects, I feel the work I spent on it was often more intense. Unlike the Celestial Serenade, I don’t think Eternity’s Empire will grow an extra addition. I’m quite satisfied with where I left the story, and I think changing the end point would do a disservice to the characters and their tale.

But while this goodbye is a lot more final than some of my others, I don’t think it means I will never encounter this world or its characters again. Most of my stories take place in a multiverse. (This was unplanned, and it just kind of happens that every time I write a story it finds a place in the bigger picture.) After spending several years thinking Eternity’s Empire would be the one story that sat outside this connective web, it provided 3 major connections in its final installment. (Though they might be hard to spot until I finish more series.)

Does The End Mean Goodbye?

For a long time, I have toyed with the idea of an indirect sequel to the Eternity’s Empire series. It turns out that sequel will be a little more direct than I anticipated. (Not that I’m complaining.) Though that story will take place in the same world, it will feature a different set of main characters.

That doesn’t mean, however, that we won’t encounter a few of the Eternity’s Empire characters and discover more about what happened after the series ended. The more I think about the possibilities, the more this new idea serves as a balm soothing the burn of leaving something I care so much about behind.

Maybe writers never really do say goodbye. Even if we don’t directly write more about our series or characters, it’s all too easy to sprinkle little tidbits throughout other stories and other series. Breadcrumbs and Easter eggs for the keenest of readers to catch, if they’re paying attention. Tiny little indulgences that allow our series to keep breathing new life even after we’ve written the final ‘the end.’

I like this little compromise. It keeps any particular series or character from becoming overused or dull. But it also keeps that spark of inspiration alive and lurking, allowing us to revisit all those familiar spaces.

The saddest thing for me about reading stories has always been the point at which you know there will never be anymore. There will come a day someday when I’m no longer to able to pen more stories – and that will be a sad day indeed. But until then, I like the idea of ‘the end’ as being less a final farewell and more a ‘see you later.’

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