This morning I finished the third book in my ‘Unicorn in New York’ series (illustrated by Oscar Armelles).
(These are the first two covers. The third is still in development, but looks fantastic so far)
So, I’ve finished! Whoop. Typing THE END is always a magical feeling, but it’s also a slightly strange sensation. This may be partly down to the fact there’s none of the firework-bursting, cork-popping, crowd-cheering sense of occasion you get with other creative jobs. No one calls you on stage to take a bow like they would an actor. No one throws their pants at you like they would a rock star (although, to be fair, I’m fine with that – it’s taken a while to train my family to use the laundry basket and I don’t want to confuse them).
I think it’s important to mark the moment. Writing a book isn’t easy, so it’s nice to occasionally yell, ‘YAY ME!’. Today’s celebrations, like most of my ‘yay me’ partying, mainly involved:
- Jumping up and down on the sofa like a happy loon (my sofa’s over twelve years old, but I’ve been putting off buying a new one because the kids and I wouldn’t be able to leap all over it then)
- Overindulging in yummy stuff (often it’s pink fizz, but today it was two tubs of Haagen Dazs – salted caramel and chocolate fondant, mmm)
- Putting on my rollerskates and whizzing through the streets near my home pretending to be twelve again.
- Ringing all the friends I’ve neglected while I’ve been writing and lining up things that involve me actually leaving the house over the next couple of weeks.
- Smiling a lot and squeezing people until they squeak
The other thing about finishing a book is that my feelings are often quite mixed. One the one hand, I feel a massive rush of happiness and pride at having finally finished the work that’s been consuming me for months (days, evenings and middle-of-the-nights). This is accompanied by the joyfully lazy feeling that I now deserve a nice self-indulgent, sofa-based break in front of the telly.
But this is followed by the realisation that, instead of lying on the sofa, I should probably be tidying my house up a bit. Because in the last few days of writing and editing I’ve scattered papers and post-its and drawings and other recyclable thinky-things all over the place. There’s also a mountain of mugs and soda cans by the sink, not to mention crumbs enough to recreate an entire packet of chocolate digestives crunched across my sofa and keyboard – testament to a delicious and nutritious diet of cake, cookies, tea and Diet Coke over the past few weeks.
And, along with the euphoria, there’s a slightly manic anxiety about sending something that’s been my story until now out into the world to be read and judged. I keep remembering sections I could have fiddled with a bit more.
Plus, there’s a smidgen of sadness, because characters who’ve been chatting away to me for months have temporarily gone quiet.
But the great thing about writing books in a series is that I know my unicorn, mermaid and troll friends will be back soon, spouting more nonsense than ever. Because there’s always another story to write. I don’t think writers can help themselves. I know a sofa-break would be lovely. I know my house would look shiny and new if I just picked up a cloth and a hoover. I know my friends and family deserve a bit of love and attention. But as the hours pass after writing THE END, my main thought is ‘brilliant, now for the next story . . .’
I wondered if other authors have similar feelings at the end of a book, so I decided to ask five of my favourites:
|Jo Nadin, author of ‘White Lies, Black Dare’
“Mostly it’s relief. But for some books, for example when I finished the long-running Rachel Riley series, which was based on my own teen years, there was a genuine sense of mourning. I’d had to relive leaving school and all my friends and felt bereft for a long time.”
“Finishing a book is a big relief! Illustrating takes ages; I start out loving it and by the end, it’s late nights and utter fatigue and I just want it to be over. But when I package up the last bit of artwork or send off the last digital file, I have to go have a bit of a celebratory flop, maybe with a coffee and a bun or chips at the pub. And then I clean off my desk, which will be buried in sketches and pencil shavings and scraps of blotting paper, in readiness for the next book.”
Jo Cotterill, author of ‘Electrigirl’ (illustrated by Cathy Brett)
“Probably by the point I finish a book I’m already halfway through a new project! But basically my feelings on finishing a book are a mix of huge relief and mild anticlimax. Quickly followed by panic that the book is STILL rubbish, even after all the work I’ve done on it.”
Philip Ardagh, author of ‘The Grunts’ series (illustrated by Axel Scheffler)
“The first person to read my manuscript, once I’m happy with it, is my editor. I never show family or friends work-in-progress and I don’t have an agent. I’ve had over 100 books published and, in the past, I had to take my manuscript, printed out and in a padded envelope, to the post office to send ‘special delivery’. No sooner had I handed it over the counter, paid the postage, and left the building, than I’d be thinking, “Why haven’t I heard back from my editor yet? She hates it…” Today, of course, I simply attach it as an electronic document to an e-mail, press ‘send’ and then immediately wonder why I’ve heard nothing… I don’t celebrate. Sometimes I have a real feeling of satisfaction. Sometimes I feel a little empty. And I don’t take time off because I’ll already be working on another book anyway.”
Lucy Strange, author of ‘The Secret of Nightingale Wood’, (out in October this year)
“I’ll tell you in a couple of weeks! I am anticipating relief, pride, JOY, and possibly excitement / impatience / dread as the next story starts to find a foothold in my brain at last!”