It’s finished at last! But the sense of achievement in reaching the end of the project is always tinged with sadness. As a writer of fiction I miss my characters, having lived with them for months on end. Now that The Chesil Apothecary is complete, how will I manage without the daily company of Jemmy Herring, his sister Annie, and Dr Thrift? As an illustrator, I already miss the plants of the Chesil beach whose shapes, habits and herbal uses have been on my mind all winter. All over now. Mission accomplished.
Some writers find it so hard to let go that they indulge in endless re-writes and unnecessary degrees of editing – anything to avoid saying, ‘Well, this is it, it’s finished.’ Anything to avoid the emptiness of saying farewell to the plot and characters.
Myself, I find the best way to move on is to have a new piece of work already under way. While I was editing and illustrating The Chesil Apothecary, I visited the beautiful and ancient Athelhampton House, not far from where I live in Dorset, and spent some time chatting to one of the guides. By the time I got home an idea for a new story had taken root – a bijou murder mystery, no less – and began writing straight away. So now The Chesil Apothecary is finished, I am already well in to the next tale. I can continue with this while I work on my bookbinding – the two interlock very well – and now I have my new characters Mr Sallow and his sidekick Crowfoot the Ape to walk with me. This really eases the process of letting go of the completed book. So my advice to writers is to welcome in some new characters before you say farewell to the old. It really helps.
Handbound copies of The Chesil Apothecary will be available at the Crabchurch Weekend Book Fayre, held at Hope Church, Trinity St, Weymouth on Sat 29 February, 2020, 12 noon to 7pm. Or for those that can’t make it to Dorset, the story will be serialised here shortly.