THE END... I always write those words when I reach the end of writing a book. They are the punctuation mark that finishes my relationship with that world I have created.
Not that I believe any book is actually completely finished...it could always be that little bit better, the words in paragraph 2 on page 167 could be rearranged...ENOUGH! At some point a writer has to let go and hit the "Send" button that will send it winging into the waiting Inbox of an eager editor or agent, who will of course promptly respond with "This is the greatest novel ever written, here is a contract for a gazillion dollars..." . Such are the thoughts you will entertain for about the first twenty four hours as you eagerly hit the refresh button on your own inbox...again...and again...
Of course when you don't get an instantaneous response (and quite honestly I would be extremely suspicious of any editor who got back to me in twenty fours*), depression sets in. That has to be the worst book I have ever written. They are going to hate it. What was I thinking? Why didn't I fix paragraph 2 on page 167?...and on the spiral into depression goes... for at least the next 48 hours. I'm not alone.
Novelist Simon Brett wrote: "...There are two points in the novel-writing cycle when authors are particularly vulnerable.... Almost every writer I know goes through the same reaction after a novel is finished – there are 24 hours of euphoria and then all the negative thoughts you have shut out while finishing it come out, and either you get drunk or depressed or get the flu.
"The other point is two-thirds or three-quarters of the way through a novel, when almost all writers get what I call the 'three-quarters sag', when the only thing you like less about what you've written so far is the ideas you have for finishing the book. My books are written quite quickly, so it only lasts a week or two, but for people who spend two years writing, it can take months." Simon Brett in the Guardian
It is no surprise that rated among the 10 of occupations with the highest rates of depression are Artists, Entertainers and Writers according to health.com but let me hasten to add, I am no Virginia Woolf or Sylvia Plath. There are many writers who suffer clinical depression and having friends who battle serious depressive illnesses I do not make light of it. But there is a distinction between an illness and just a mild sense of loss!
Being essentially a person with a sunny disposition and a happy childhood (and thus doomed never to write "great literature"), the "depression" I suffer at the completion of a book can realistically be described as a mild sense of loss.
I have been living inside my characters heads. I know every nuance of their behaviour, what their favorite color is...and if I'm really in the zone they talk to me. We have conversations. (No...seriously, other writers will no exactly what I mean) and then quite suddenly they've gone. I've waved them off at the door and the house feels empty.
I look at the mound of ironing, the washing up, a study that is breeding dust elephants and a to do list as long as my arm which includes such unimportant things as "Last year's tax". I cannot settle to anything (particularly as I'm checking my inbox every 5 minutes).
I have been doing this long enough to remember the days before the internet when the query letter was neatly typed and put in an envelope with a stamp and for months I would dog the postman before the inevitable rejection slip arrived (if at all). If a manucript was requested it was printed out (I'm not quite THAT old...we did have computers and printers!), secured with a rubber band and the family fortune expended in sending it off...only to have a single one page rejection return.
Now it is all mechanised (or is that digitalised?). Submissions are done online ...some publishers even have a "Submission" proforma to which you attach your manuscript and off it goes, lacking even the interaction of an email and in modern business models you are assured of a response in 4-6 weeks.