What Happens Next

by Janis Patterson

After listening to those of my friends who have become mothers – some several times – the more I am convinced that finishing a book is sort of like having a baby. The initial idea is delightful and often quite pleasurable. The gestation period is variable, ranging from horrendous to enjoyable, and sometimes both on any given day. The final wind-up is a lot of hard work and sweat, and though a book does not cause the same amount of physical pain as a baby, with a book you cannot be anesthetized to insensibility and then wake up to a brand new book.

Once the deed is done and over with, though, and The End typed boldly at the bottom of the manuscript a debilitating lassitude creeps in. You feel hollow and in an odd way bereft. That which you have cossetted, worried over, been obsessed with, hated, and loved pretty much to the exclusion of all else for X number of months is gone. It is no longer extant only within you. It lies there on table or hard drive, unable to take flight on its own, but neither a part of you any longer. It is no longer totally dependent on you.

Oh, it’s still very much in need of you, and in a way perhaps the hardest work of all lies ahead. Edits. Congruency runs. (You don’t want a character named Eddie to be called Charlie in chapters 4 and 21 when there is no plotline reason for it.) More edits. Revisions. Perhaps even more edits and revisions in a seemingly endless obscene dance. Then, when it is finally spruced up and ready to be seen out in the world, there are the submissions to agents and editors, or if self-publishing, the conferences with cover artists, even more kinds of editors and formatters. No matter how you are publishing there is publicity to be thought of and budgeted for, even perhaps ARCs to be sent out and reviews to be solicited.

But that is in the future. At the moment you have just typed The End, and that hollow feeling is enveloping you. I cannot do this again, you think. This is absolutely the last time. Even when an idea – a new idea, a simply splendid idea that will never give you the trouble and pain this one did – pops into your brain you are so totally wrung out it doesn’t even sound appealing. You’re never going to do this again.

I know. I just finished a book day before yesterday that has given me no end of pain and problems and trouble. And I know the unholy circus of editing and all the rest lies in front of me. The whole idea seems so daunting I want nothing more than to lay my wrung-out, bereft, hollow self down with a margarita within easy reach and do nothing.

If only that dratted new, shiny, oh-so-delectible idea would just go away and leave me alone…

5 thoughts on “What Happens Next

  1. Great analogy, and you’re so right about that empty feeling when the words “the end” are typed. I’m never ready to let go and say goodbye to my characters. That may be one reason why I do so many edits after that point…it keeps my “friends” around for just a little longer.


  2. I know what you mean. Those ideas are so alluring, yet caring a book to fruition is really work!


  3. It’s true, Janis. There are so many similarities. Even after you’ve written it and send it out into the world.


  4. You are so right, Janis….writing a book is a lot like having a baby!
    Great post.
    Good luck and God’s blessings


  5. I agree with this analogy. Of course, giving birth to my children was more meaningful. However, having my novels published was a lot like sending my children out into the world to survive on their own, a bit daunting but filled with hope for their future.


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