My wife (God love her) recently pointed out to me that I make a noise each time I finish a book or a manuscript. Sometimes I even say a word. And it occurs to me that each word or sound is filled with meaning and connotation. I bring up this topic today, because I asked around the office, and everyone (older and younger, male and female) admitted to similar habits. It does make sense, because you've just been on a journey of a minimum of 200 pages and at least 10 hours (sometimes much more) with a particular writer and a specific set of characters, and you've been involved in the plot from beginning to end. When it's all over, you're bound to have a reaction of some sort. Herewith my most common reactions:
When I finish the last sentence and I say, "OK," I am thinking. "OK, that was all tied up just fine." I can't say that it's a word or noise of great enthusiasm, but it is a noise that acknowledges competence and a job done well. "OK" doesn't mean I've been blown away, but nor does it mean that I have been disappointed.
This word is the highest compliment. When I've turned the last page and said "Wow," it means I've been really impressed with something. It occurs to me as I write this that lots of books and manuscripts these days go out with a whimper rather than a bang, perhaps because whimpers are better at setting up a sequel. Closing with a bang always impresses me, but a "Wow" happens only when it's been preceded by something excellent. If I say "Wow" at the end of your manuscript, you will very soon have a contract.
3. NICE JOB.
This is a banal phrase I use that is actually more complimentary than it sounds. It means I think the author has balanced a lot of things well--plot, character, pacing, etc. It's a holistic compliment, a way of acknowledging that the writer knows his/her craft and has done a nice job of bringing it all together. Now, "nice job" does not equate to that common phrase of "falling in love with the manuscript" (for me, that's the "Wow" in #2), but it does mean that I'll likely ask a colleague to read the manuscript, which does move that MS closer down the road to publication.
Sighing is usually good, but wistful and a little sad. It means a book that I've really enjoyed has ended and that I may not see the characters again for a while. I often sigh at the end of the Precious Ramotswe books, because I've found them so delightful and relaxing, and I'm a little sad that I'll have to wait another year to hear more from Mma Ramotswe and the outspoken Mma Makutsi.
This is the sound of frustration. It means I'm disappointed in the execution of something--the ending, the writing, the resolution, etc. The frustration is usually borne of having seen several good elements in the manuscript, but the book not coming together as a whole. This noise usually means I don't think the author will be able to "fix" the manuscript to my satisfaction, so it usually leads to a rejection letter that does have some nice things to say despite the rejection.
Some of my readers with teenage children may know that this stands for "What the f---?" This is a sign that something has gone terribly wrong. It's that horrible sound that means "Oh God, I have just wasted hours...for this?!?"
7. YES. <NOD>
I have this reaction when justice is well served, when the villain gets his or her just desserts and/or poetic justice has been done. The nodding is my way of agreeing with what the author has said and done, how s/he has brought things to a conclusion that I find eminently satisfactory.
8. <SHAKE OF THE HEAD, SIDE TO SIDE, with pursed lips>
This is the "bad movement." A book that has annoyed me, or has failed to engage me, or has made some serious mistakes gets the shake, that dismissal that moves the MS from the "not right for me" category into the "this thing will never get published" category.
At least, these are the last-page noises and movements that I remember from recent reads. Perhaps I'll add to the list in the future. What are YOUR noises?