In Search of a Writing Ritual
I finished my book this week. I typed “The End” and it was done. It’s not finished by any means. It’s not even ready to go to my copy editor yet. But as far as telling the story? It’s over.
When I hit the halfway point, I was energized and ecstatic and predicted that finishing the whole thing would feel like a rocket launch/wedding day/21st birthday combined. But as I got closer to the end a sense of foreboding grew. I wanted to finish, but yet I didn’t. I finished Chapter 9 just before leaving for a Disneyland vacation with my husband and all three kids. When I got back I didn’t pick the book up right away. All told I took ten days off from writing. And then I busted out two chapters and 10,000 words in a single week.
Last Friday I was so close to the end that I didn’t think I’d be able to take the weekend off. But I did. And then I finished the book on Monday in the middle of the day. And then cried for about ten minutes. And moped for a couple hours more. Then I went to the comic book store and bought myself some comics and a Wonder Woman figurine. I felt an emptiness. Joseph Campbell would say that it was my soul longing for a ritual, a rite of passage.
Looking at movies, what are some End of Novel rituals?
In “Misery”, Sonny (James Caan will always be Sonny Corleone to me) lights up a cigarette. Good one, but I actually quit smoking a week before starting this novel.
In “Romancing the Stone” Kathleen Turner weeps as she writes the final scene of her novel. She celebrates by dressing up her cat’s food with a sprig of parsley. Yes, I cried a bit, but Jesus Christ I’m not some spinster romance writer. This comes closest to the truth for me, but DO NOT WANT.
In “Stand by Me” Richard Dreyfuss writes his final lines about never having friendships like you do when you’re twelve, shuts off the computer and takes his kids swimming. Kinda meh, but also pretty close to my reality. No fanfare, no champagne and confetti. Just getting on with it.
I need a ritual. My writer friends admonished me to put away this book for a couple weeks before I start revising it. So I think I’m going to start writing the sequel and I want something more satisfying than a crying jag and a comic book at the end of it.