While reading Scott Lynch’s words on the death of Robert Jordan, a thought struck me about this writing lark. Hopefully it’s not one I’m going to have to answer myself for a fair while, but I thought it was an interesting point none the less. Maybe I should ask J K Rowling because this is something she’ll be dealing with most likely, and I’m sure there’ll be a lot more written about it than there already has.
In a nutshell, if you were a man like Jim Rigney, not in the greatest of health and having seen enormous success for a really epic series, how would you feel about ending it? There’s always a sense of melancholy at the end of a book, and while I’ve not got there yet I would say that would be magnified by the fact that you’ve reached the end of a series too. I’m not sure whether book 12 was actually going to be the end of the Wheel of Time series, but it was mooted that it would be at some point and if it was, I’d find it quite a conflicting experience.
Not making any sense yet? Well, 12 books, conservatively at least 200,000 words in each, so a good two and a half million of his words have been used, quite aside from the bits that were rewritten and/or discarded. The years of research, the back pain from writing for two decades, the significant chunk of your life taken up by each thankless squealing brat of a novel. And then you’re ready to finish, you realise that this thing that made you rich and famous is coming to an end. It’s going to be completed, and that’s a good thing. But.
But this was quite a feat, one that took it’s toll and you’ve found yourself an older and more tired person than the one you used to be. But you are never going to be able to mange this again, even trying to top it would be a foolish effort because it’d defeat you. Whatever else you do after this isn’t going to be as significant to you, and most likely the world too, however good it’s not going to be as “great” in all aspects of that word. j K Rowling has the chance to do something more, but will never replicate the once-in-a-generation success of Potter and would frankly be foolish to try something like that in the next ten years. Jim Rigney knew he was ill, he knew whether he lived another two months or another two years he would produce nothing to compare to the Wheel of Time. Now I believe the man was a decorated soldier among other things so clearly writing wasn’t the crux of his life, but it still dominated a large chunk of it. At some point he must have been sitting there thinking “nothing else I do is going to really matter here. Once I finish this book, it’s all over.”
I’m not claiming any grand statements from all this, just musing as is my wont. If anyone has any thoughts on the subject, I’d love to hear them however.