My buddy Mur Lafferty and I have a ritual. Every few months or so, one of us calls the other and says gloomily “I finished the book.”
The other one says “Oh, no, I’m so sorry,” and offers to bring cake, gin, or anything else that will soften the blow.
Kevin used to think this was weird. After a few years of living with me, and of seeing Mur do the exact same thing, he may still think it’s weird, but he has adapted to the point where when I announce “So I finished the book,” he takes off from work early so that he can pick up a German Chocolate Cake on the way home. (On one epic occasion, the store was out of German Chocolate Cake, so he baked me one, thus cementing his position forever in the Boyfriend Hall of Fame.)
Thing is…when the book is done, it is DONE. All the things you thought you’d work in somewhere and didn’t? Not gonna happen now. The book is over. The characters may be going on about their lives, but they are no longer telling you about it. (If they are, then you A) need to write a sequel, or B) need to learn to let go. It is up to you which it is, although I’ll offer the caveat that far more people need to learn to let go than need to write sequels, particularly if your current book is already in excess of six hundred pages.) The book is over. It is as good as it is going to get. Editing can make it tighter, cleaner, crisper, clearer, but it will not carry the book to dizzying new heights.
Or, as my buddy Deb says upon finishing a novel, “Well, ruined another one.” Deb, aka Sabrina Jeffries, hits the bestseller list every time and gets advances with quite an astonishing number of zeros for her “ruined” books, but apparently this does not change the gloom upon finishing one.
I finished the script for Digger today.
I knew how it ended for quite a while, I even knew more-or-less what the final bits of dialogue would look like, I just hadn’t written them down. But now I actually need them, as I wrap the story in the next few pages, so I had to write them down.
The script for Digger is one endless Word doc of minimal punctuation and no dialog tags. (I know who’s talking, and that’s the important bit!) There are fifteen or twenty pages worth of dialog that didn’t actually get into the comic—snippets I wrote long ago and thought would go somewhere, and then it didn’t go like that, or I never got around to it. And today I hit “SAVE” and that’s the end of it–this is as good as it gets, this is the end, there ain’t no more.
And when you’ve been working on something for SO LONG, you are The Person That Works On This Thing, and then when you are no longer doing that, what are you? Finishing a long-term project always results in a kind of feeling of creative unemployment for me. I wander around going “But what do I do with my life now?” (Fortunately something generally fills that gap within hours…)
I don’t feel quite the crushing melancholy of finishing some other stuff—the end of Ninjabreath’s script had me curled on the sofa wondering if crab rangoon and the love of a good man was actually sufficient reason to continue living—but I did feel a definite pang. (The Dragonbreath books have gotten better, because they are both extensively edited and then there’s art and then there’s art edits, so that the “end” is now a kind of stuttering juddering thing, and as soon as I finish one I need to be starting the next, so I don’t get quite so smacked down. The end of the series may require a long vacation, but I don’t know yet.)
There are still a couple more comics to draw. I don’t know how it’s going to work—if I draw the final comic and suddenly burst into tears and drive weeping to the grocery at 5 miles an hour for cake and crab rangoon (thank god for the Chinese restaurant next to Food Lion!) or if I will simply upload it as I have done twice a week for years on end and then the next Monday, when the comic suddenly Does Not Need To Be Drawn…I don’t know.
Fortunately the week after I will (probably) finish Digger, I’m driving to Florida with Kevin for a thingy that will involve Disneyworld for a day or two and perhaps alligators, and that should help immensely.
You’ve finished your webcomic! What are you going to do now? I’M GOING TO DISNEYWORLD!
Could be worse.
ETA: YOU SEE WHAT I MEAN? I finished the blog post, checked my e-mail, and there’s the note saying that the script for Campbreath is pretty much approved, pending a few minor twitches, and now I have to start on the art. Either I live a charmed life or there is no longer such a thing as down-time in my world, take your pick.