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When will you make an end?

If you've ever seen The Agony and the Ecstasy, you know the answer Michelangelo gives to Pope Julius II's question.

"When I am finished."

But is anything ever truly finished, or is it simply abandoned?

Endings have been on all of our minds here at Casablanca this month, but for every ending, there is a new beginning. My horoscope has been consistently telling me that a new career move is in the works. That I will leave one profession behind to seek another. But I doubt that it will happen all in one day. At some point, I'll either decide to quit nursing or quit writing because it has been very difficult to do both, but I won't do it just because the stars say I should.

Changes are progressive, and the really big decisions are often made for us. Someone hires us, fires us, lays us off, or buys our book. We can put ourselves out there, but what makes or breaks us is mostly out of our hands. We can write the best book we possibly can, but if no one knows to buy it, its fate is sealed. If it is well-promoted and reviewed, we stand a better chance, but still, the decision is with the buyer and ultimately, the reader.

I don't like to write "THE END" when I come to a story's close, because it really isn't an end. It's the part where we assume that our characters will live on--or not--and what happens is left to our imagination. Did you read Gone With the Wind and believe that Scarlett would get Rhett back? I never did. I thought the break was too complete, but I didn't mind because I knew that with or without one another, they would live out their lives, sometimes happily and sometimes not, but that there was another story beyond the point where the author decided to stop.

I once read a book that was quite lengthy and followed the lives of a group of women. It was a popular book, and I believe was given to me as a gift. I read it and kept waiting for the climax of the story, but there wasn't one. Books that chronicle entire lives have too many ups and downs, and the happily ever after isn't left to the imagination. I find that very boring, unless the book is an autobiography, and, generally speaking, most of those are completed prior to the author's death.

What I'm trying to say here, is that I'd rather not have the ending spelled out for me. I need the tiniest opportunity to say, "But what if...?"


  1. I hope that horoscope means you're about to have an international best seller so you can write full time, because I love your books and never want you to stop writing. Selfish of me, I guess, but there it is.

    I know of at least three novels that continue the Gone with the Wind story. Such an epic tale. I wonder which books, in 50 or 100 years, will still be loved, read and pondered.

  2. I totally agree. I love it when I can't figure out how everything will end--especially when it's a book I'm writing!

    I haven't seen The Agony and the Ecstasy. I'll have to rent it.

  3. *snort* International bestseller? Yeah, right... But I'm glad you think it's possible, Olivia. You might have one of those someday yourself!

    Great movie! I used to have the hots for Charleton Heston, so I don't think there's any movie of his that I haven't seen. Ben-Hur is probably my favorite, though. Horses, chariot races, and Charleton Heston. Oh, yeah....

    The not knowing the ending is what keeps me writing. I'm having more trouble writing Stud, my current WIP, than I've ever had writing anything else, and I think it's because I wrote a fairly detailed synopsis before I ever began writing it. Some folks will tell you that this is the best way to write a book, but that feeling that you're discovering the story as you write is one that simply can't be beat.

  4. Cheryl, what a great quote to introduce your blog! Perfect! But hopefully your writing will never be "finished." Your books bring so much pleasure (meow!) to so many people.
    I had the exact same issue with my last book. I did a very detailed synopsis and outline and planned every step - and it was much harder than my usual skipping-off-into-the-wilderness style. I'm working on my next book now, letting the story unfold as I write and SO much happier! So are my characters! You can't predict what those cowboys are going to do anyway.

  5. Joanne,
    I've been writing some short stories and just letting them unfold; no synopsis, nothing but the original premise to go by. It's MUCH more fun than knowing what happens. You can let your characters run wild!

  6. Cheryl, you just stole most of what I was going to say in my blog tomorrow. Now I have to write another. Oh well.

    Still, you've made a good point. The ending place is often kind of hard to find. I think the purpose of a lot of our rituals from funerals to commencement exercises is to give us a clear dividing line, a place we can point to and say "done, over, finished."

    And we choose our favorite genres, based on whether the ending is likely to satisfy us.

  7. Ah, well, MM. That's a hazard of having so many writers write about the same theme. Sooner or later, one of us is gonna say the same thing. Looking forward to your blog tomorrow!

  8. Thought provoking post today Cheryl ... reminds me of a gold wedding band ... no beginning, no end. A complete circle ... kind of like what a good romance book is ...
    The couple rides off into the sunset ... but it's not the end. It's merely the beginning of another phase. Will they be together in ten years or will they have gone in a different direction! Good job, cat lady!

  9. Change can be exciting, but frightening too since so much is beyond our control. All we can do is ride out the uncontrolable parts and steer like mad on the parts we do control.

  10. I'm with you Cheryl. 'What if' gives me so much to work with even when reading someone else's work.

  11. I love the idea of ..."what if". To me the possibilites are the most intriguing part of any love story.


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