The End or Is It?

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By Sherry where summer temperatures have returned even after Barb warned me if I put socks on last weekend it was the end of summer.

I see posts on Facebook all the time where an author happily announces that they just typed “The End” for their latest book. I have a confession. I’ve never typed it myself. I’ve obviously finished books, but for some reason I can’t bring myself to type those two little words.

Maybe I’m superstitious about it for some reason. I remember hearing author John Dufresne say at readings he won’t tell people what page he’s reading from because he might change the wording to make a sentence better as he goes along. And I always wonder when in the process other authors are typing “The End”. After the first draft? The sixth? The twelfth? Right before they turn it into the publisher?

I know my first draft isn’t the last one so it doesn’t feel like the end. It might be because even after I send it off to my editor at Kensington I know I’m going to get the copy edits which gives me another chance to polish the manuscript. And boy is there a lot to polish every time I get them back even though I feel like I’ve turned in a clean manuscript.

Even after the copy edits there’s that one final chance when the page proof comes. At this point the book has been type set and along with the page proof comes a warning to change only what is absolutely necessary. And that if you make too many changes you may have to pay for it. Gulp. At this point I’m pretty much making sure the punctuation is correct and words are spelled correctly. I might clean a bit here or there, but I always worry that I’ll do too much.

Maybe I don’t type “The End “because I don’t want it to be over or I think there’s more I could have done. Trust me, the minute I sent in the copy edits for I Know What You Bid Last Summer on Tuesday, I wished I had them back to read through them one more time.

I think in the end (pun intended) that typing “The End” is to final for me. Instead of a satisfying triumph it’s more about questioning if I did enough. Maybe it’s that insecurity that so many writers carry around with them that someone is going to point and yell “fraud”. Or maybe it’s like telling someone I love goodbye when I don’t want to. It could be part of the whole letting the story go out into the world where it will be judged, loved, hated, remarked on, or ignored.

I imagine typing “The End” sometimes. I’d do it with a bit of a flourish like when you finish playing something stirring on the piano and lift your hands from the keys. It would be in a great font. And then I’d delete it because I’m superstitious.

Readers: Do you type “The End”? When do you type it? And if you aren’t a writer do you ever have a hard time knowing when a project is finished?

29 thoughts on “The End or Is It?

  1. Great post, Sherry! I confess I DO type The End when I finish the first draft. Of course it isn’t the actual end, as you so sensibly point out – but it’s the start of the end, and I do love that feeling of, “Whew, I finished putting down the bones of another story, another book.”

  2. Sherry, I don’t know why either, but I’ve never typed “the end” on anything I’ve ever written, and if you include all the books and stories that never sold, trust me that’s a lot of times when I thought I had a finished manuscript . . . and usually didn’t. The time when I accept that I’m truly at the end of a project is when I check the first author copy against the changes I wanted made to the page proofs and give a sigh of relief that they’re all there.

    • Now, i’m reflecting back over longer years of writing. I don’t think I ever did it either. And I’m so glad I’m not the only one who rushes to make sure everything is fixed. In A Good Day To Buy I called the killer the wrong name once and was terrified I hadn’t fixed it! I did!

  3. I have on occasion typed The End. There have been times it was requested by whoever I was submitting a piece to.

    An aside, I once had a dream that ended with the words The End, as though it had been a movie I was watching.

  4. I like what Barbarakay said about not feeling the authority to pronounce The End. If I ever thought I could write or make something perfectly maybe I would be more inclined to write The End. What brought joy to my heart from your post here was reading that you sent in the copy edits for I Know What You Bid Last Summer on Tuesday….I have it in my queue and can’t wait to read it!!!

  5. Like you, I’ve never typed “The End” on any version. We as writers know there will be changes. Nor do I open a bottle of champagne or dance around the house with the cats. I do feel like a weight has been lifted, though. Much as I love the writing, it feels good to shepherd a book to a satisfying conclusion. And in a few days I start feeling antsy to start the next one. (And I just finished the draft of the County Cork Mystery #7 this week.)

    • I’ve been known to go out for dinner the night I hit send. But that’s usually because I haven’t been out of the house for a week and there’s no food left. Yay for number 7!

  6. While I say I type “the end” I’ve never literally typed “the end.” I finish one stage (like a rough draft or first revision) and I celebrate it. But like you said, there always seems to be more to do.

    As I just learned with something I thought was ready to start submitting. Unfortunately.

  7. Sherry, I’m like you. To be honest, it’s never even occurred to me to type the actual words, “The End.” Probably from so many years of typing “Fade out” instead. It’s not in my wheelhouse!

  8. I don’t usually type The End on anything. I just move on to something else. Typing The End just takes too much time.

    But I’ve thought about what you are saying many times before when I see authors talking about typing The End on a book. But I also get their point of view. Their goal was to finish a first draft, and they did it. It helps them feel like they’ve accomplished it.

  9. This is such an interesting post! I type “THE END” when I’ve finished a first draft. Plotting and writing the first draft is the most daunting task for me, so “THE END” only indicates the end of the story and the first draft…not the end of my work! 🙂

    • I should add that I begin most writing sessions with editing some (or a lot) of what I’ve already written. Then I edit countless times after the draft is done. Maybe that constant editing helps me feel more complete when draft 1 is written?

  10. I sometimes like when authors write the end, but I think with some types of books/stories, it is more fitting than others. I listen to audiobooks quite a bit, and about half of the books I hear say, “The End.” For some reason, though, hearing it sounds weird to me. Hehee! Great post!

    *Also, I didn’t know that when authors make more changes to certain drafts, more money is required if you make too many! So interesting! I see now why there are somany authors who have review teams, etc! A 2nd, 3rd, or 15th pair of eyes really could save you some serious cash in the long run! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  11. I wrote The End when I finished the first manuscript because it felt like it was an ending. I knew there were reviews and revisions ahead but something I had been working on for a lot longer than just the writing portion was coming to a close. It felt important and noteworthy.

    That said, I don’t remember typing The End when I finished the first draft of the second manuscript. The actual writing had taken longer and I’d spent months of it writing when I wasn’t feeling well (curse those neverending colds) and I was more than 130% over estimated finish word count. I probably was so relieved I had actually finished it I typed The End just to prove I had done it. 🙂

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