It's now about four months since I set out on the long arduous journey that is my latest novel, and the end is finally coming into view. I can see it, like a mirage on the horizon, a little watering hole in the desert, surrounded by leafy palms. I stagger on, feeble legs sinking into the sand, tongue hanging out. One thought in my mind. The End. The End...
And then, I come over a sand dune and it's gone. Vanished. Everything had been so clear, but now my head is a fog of indecision. Shouldn't I do this instead? Wouldn't it be better if he left his wife and went off with the mistress? What if the police were in on it all along?
It must be a recognized medical condition, the inability to finish your novel. Fictionus inconclusiva. I tell myself, two more chapters, tops - but the goalposts keep receding as I get hopelessly bogged down with putting in more unnecessary plot complications. I lie awake in the small hours, desperately wondering if "He woke up and it was all a dream" wouldn't be such a bad ending after all. Any ending starts to look like a blessed relief. But the harder I try, it feels like two repelling magnets determined to avoid each other.
Why is so hard to finish? Is it the emotional attachment to the project? Is it the fear of failure? I don't know really, but in my case I think it's to do with lost opportunity. When your novel is in your head, anything is possible. Once it's on the page, that's it for better or worse. OK, you can tweak it till the cows come home, but that's more or less the story. And I don't like that. I want everything to still be possible.
But I do eventually get a grip and force myself to get to the end. It's never as much of a climax as I expected, more of a weary relief. But it's a good feeling - and this time round I've got another project I'm itching to start so that's added incentive.