The agony of ending a book

Back in 2010 I was sweating out a major revision of the book that became Mapping Winter. The conclusion fought me every step of the way, so I finally bought myself a week in a cabin in the mountains above Forestville and fought it out with the book, mano a mano. I posted this on August 19, 2010, in the late, lamented site

I hate ending books. I hate ending books. I hate it, I hate it, it’s horrible, I hate it, it sucks.

They don’t want to end. This one doesn’t want to end. They become jigsaw puzzles, with all the weird pieces shaped like New Hampshire sticking out and they won’t go in and all the people shut up and won’t say squat except when they say, “You want me to go over here. Okay. No problem. I’ll go over here. Great. What’s that? What do I think about it? Buzz off, sister, you think I’m going to tell you?” So I explain that that is why I am writing the book, to say what so‑and‑so thinks about it, what’s going on in her head, what his stomach feels like right about now, now that it is all coming together, now that the book is drawing to a close, now that our journey together is ending. Are they convinced? Hah!

Listen, I say to them, we have come a long, long way together, you and I. We started a long time ago, and we have had many adventures, only some of which have made it into the book. We have a history here. And see, I have the plot lines gathered together, they are coming together here, New Hampshire is morphing into a banana which just fits that banana‑shaped hole right over there, see? Isn’t that nifty? What do you think of that? And the book says, “First, your metaphors are a mess and, second, what about that sub‑plot you introduced in Chapter 5, eh? The one you made a big fuss about and now where is it? Ummmm? You think you can end this book without taking care of that?”

I’ve fixed the holes. I’ve gathered up the ends. I have shaped the jigsaw. I don’t give a damn about the metaphors. I can literary it up later, but right now I want the stupid thing to end. And it won’t do it.

I creep in, stake in hand, down the twisting stairs of the castle, it’s midnight, the moon is dark, the dungeon is dark, it is dark and damp and creepy and I will kill the goddamned thing, I will close this book if it’s the last thing I do upon the face of the earth, and I raise the lid of the coffin and I position the stake and I raise the hammer, I lift it up, I raise the hammer to strike the single fatal blow, I have it by the metaphorical or allegorical throat and I am prepared, I am poised, I am ready to finish the book! I raise it high, the hammer, and I balance it, and I bring it down, and ‑‑ the goddamned thing escapes me, and stands jeering on the far side of the room, screaming, “I want to live! I want to live!” But it has nowhere to go, the story is over, the plot is resolved, so why can’t I just end the book?

Deep breath. Deep breath. What are you, a writer or a mouse? Deep breath. Tap <Enter> twice, <Indent> once. Press down on the <Shift> key. Ready? Deep breath.

And then a bear ate them up and they lived happily ever after.

Crap. I’m going to watch Star Wars.

Author: Marta Randall

I was born in 1948 in Mexico DF, Mexico, but have lived in the United States since infancy. I have taught in several sf writing workshops and served in Science Fiction Writers of America as vice-president 1981-1982 and president 1982-1984. My first story was published in New Worlds 5 (1973).

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