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.


  1. cricketB

    At one point, I wanted to give OnebitCPU a short-list of writers in the fandom to send my entire writing folder to, then ask them to have a proper wake, find the most-recent version of each scene, put in the order it looks like I intended, post it, and have another wake.

    Then there’s another short-list for the knitting, one for the rest of the crafts, and one for organizing the basement.

  2. philangelus

    I figure my Patient Husband would just mail my entire yarn stash to Ivy. Have her finish that sock for me. 🙂

  3. whiskers

    Well…I don’t fear dying before I finish my latest work, but so far I’ve only written news stories and term papers, and one very very long paper to submit to an undergraduate journal…so sometimes I though longingly of oblivion during the writing process.

    One way to avoid this, (I think, I haven’t done it yet either), is to designate a literary executor in your will. Then anytime you fear dying during the writing process, explain what happens next to to that person, and if you die they must continue to publish your work!