I’m at that point in writing ♥My Book♥ which always takes me by surprise and which, to be honest, shouldn’t. It’s the point where I fear dying.
I have no idea if other writers do this too, but at some point or another, I become afraid I’m going to die and my book won’t be finished. And then someone will read the book and burn with curiosity forever as to what I meant to happen.
It’s totally ego. I know this, and by now it amuses me: as if the world would really care if I dropped dead with a book nearly finished. You guys would care, but the rest of the world wouldn’t even notice. Maybe my Patient Husband could email you what of the first draft actually exists, and the notes I’ve jotted down for the end of the book (but beware: the notes mean nothing to anyone else. They’re things like, “Rain,” “another trip to store,” and “final scene @ plaza.” As before, organized writers like Amy Deardon would have a heart attack if they really knew how I worked.)
I’ve been writing stories since I was three and novels since I was thirteen. I haven’t died so far. Most likely, I won’t die in the next month either. I mean, I might. Tomorrow is never a promise. But in all likelihood, I’ll get to suffer through submitting this novel and getting it rejected too. It will make me stronger; it’s unlikely to kill me.
In The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers (which by now I’ve quoted so often that you might as well go buy the thing) Betsy Lerner says every writer has that fear of dying with a work half-finished. Is that really true?
The only way to avoid the dying-before-finishing problem is to write very short works (started and finished in the same sitting) or not to write anything at all. Neither of those appeals to me. Of course, I do write short pieces, and I have fun with them, but they don’t light up my brain the way a novel does.
Regardless, I’m plugging away doing my thousand to fifteen hundred words a day. I’ll probably finish in about ten more days. Then time to edit. And I’m never worried about dying during the editing process, for some reason. Probably because it’s less romantic (“Oh, the tragedy! She left behind her typos!”) but more likely because really, it wasn’t an issue at all.