I have a confession to make. Sometimes when I really should be working, I spend time reading articles about writing, because then it’s not quite as bad as goofing off and playing Guitar Hero. And one consistent theme pops up in the articles: writers’ relationships with their books are very similar to romantic relationships. Well, since I read articles on writing romance, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.
And here’s another confession. I really like that analogy. One of my favorites, and I apologize if I’ve told you this before, (I have a mind like a large gauge sieve) is the wife and mistress analogy. The book you are supposed to be writing is you wife. That’s the one you’ve made the commitment to. But you’ve been together for awhile now, and as they say, “the bloom is off the rose.” The mistress is always there to tempt you. That other book. The one that’s fresh and exciting. Maybe it’s in another genre, maybe you know it’s something that will be a hard sell and the forbidden nature of it makes it all more alluring. The wife and the mistress dilemma. I’ve been in that one many times.
Yes, they talk about the infatuation stage you have with your book. When it’s new and magic and you’re learning all kinds of fascinating things about each other and, in the case of erotic romance, all this first time sex is seriously hot. Then you settle in and the new becomes familiar. You’re in the “sagging middle” and looking for a way to spice things up. (A little kink can help out even the most stale marriages, right?)
But the part of the relationship so near and dear and painful to my heart today is the end. Who really wants to say goodbye after all you’ve been through together? You’ve been so intimate, you know each other so well, it’s really hard to walk away. And even if you see each other again, in a sequel or as secondary characters, it will never be like it was when you were all to each other.
It’s not the beginnings or middles that challenge me most as a writer. It’s the endings. Some of it is being a pantser. If I know the ending completely, I lose interest in the story. I have to remember that as much as I love these characters, the reader is probably more ready than I am to say good-bye. You want to leave the party while everyone is still having a good time, not drag it out to the awkward turn- off-the-lights-and-turn-down-the-music stage. So when is enough? When do you know that you’ve given the reader exactly the payoff they crave without over-staying your welcome? When is it time to break up and move on?