Getting to the end might be a fantasy, but being stuck in the middle is something close to a nightmare (slightly less of a nightmare than being at the beginning, or in the pre–beginning blur, which is nothing short of terrifying, but that’s for another day).
Not so bad for short stories, because I’ve a brain competent enough to hold the span of one of those in my head, and the guilt about leaving them unfinished is significantly less. But novels are horrible.
The middle bit is just nasty. I’ve forgotten how I started and I don’t remember how I wanted it to end. Or I know how I want it to end – The End has been the target I have been writing at for the past however long, but not a clue how to get there. Or I’ve changed my mind about the end, or the beginning, or about wanting to do writing at all. (If you are reading this out loud you should do the last paragraph in a voice of rising panic.)
The middle has a voice all of its own. It says: ‘no-one’s ever going to give you a hot air balloon for this!’ It says: ‘you can’t say that, people will laugh at you, people will know what you think about when you are sitting still on trains.’ It says: ‘people expect a person with an English Degree to be able to punctuate and construct attractive sentences, and you’re about to reveal that you can’t!’ and it says: ‘you do realise this whole idea is quite daft?’
I say, ‘you’re absolutely right,’ and try to carry on anyway. When it asks me why I am doing what I am doing (the kidney punch, the low blow, fighting dirty) I ignore the question because I cannot lie well enough to invent a plausible answer.
Sometimes there are forty or fifty thousand words on my computer which represents a lot of child and friend neglect, a lot of wine and smoking, a lot of ranting and scrawling on buses and obsessing. The fantasy ending is not yet in sight, but I’ve come too far along to be able to jack it in either. Even though I want to, every day.
But I lie every day too, which is how, I imagine, these things eventually do get finished.