Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Hardest Part

I'm mere chapters away from completing the initial draft of my novel.  And I'm finding it difficult.  It's got to be perfect, you understand.  Believable.  Exciting.  Fun and engaging yet steeped in tension.  I intend to drive the reader to tears, to shouts of joy, to wondering why they've bitten all the nails off their fingers.  And of course, to pondering the inevitable woes to come.  I think, for me, the ending is the hardest part.

I know what has to happen.  The goal is clear.  The climax and its aftermath are not in question.  It's simply a matter of getting the setup just right.  The beginning was easy.  And writing the middle was loads of fun.

You see, I'm essentially a discovery writer and offer no apologies for it.  Were I to treat my outline like the Gospel According to St. John or the Pentateuch then writing would be a chore or a (gasp!) job.  (I already have one of those and it pays better in a month than I'll probably earn in my lifetime as a writer.)

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. (1842)
It amazes me.  All I need to start a story--even a novel--is a simple line of dialog, or possibly a stimulating opening statement without a clue where it will lead.  Two little words launched this current NIP (novel in progress) of mine.  Oh, if wrapping up all the loose threads were as easy.

This is the point in my writing where my muse goes on vacation.  She's done her job.  She inspired.  She dropped impressive vistas, titillating events and dynamic characters right into my lap and let me play.  She smiled as I did so.  But she doesn't write the book.  She doesn't dig plot.  She cares little for consistency.  And she despises grammar.  All that, she leaves to me.

I hear many say they can never get started or they become mired in the muddle in the middle. Some complain of writing themselves into a corner or of losing inspiration or enthusiasm.  I'm sure I'll experience all these hindrances at some point.  I haven't really done so yet with this book.  For the most part it's flowed like a serene stream.  At times it's been a rushing river.  Of course there have been times when I crawled and clawed my way through scenes or meandered at plot detours or fiddled with a setting until I could get it just so.

Now I must master the mechanics.  Now is when the skill must arise.  To reuse my previous metaphor, I'm at bat.  The bases are loaded.  It's a full count.  And the pitcher is winding the payoff pitch.  Will I choke?  Will I swing and miss?  Will I stand idly by and watch the ball sail perfectly through the strike zone?  I'm being sifted and measured.  Do I have what it takes to knock it out of the park?

My epic fantasy needs an epic climax.  Perhaps an epic climax requires an epic struggle on the part of the writer?  I think that before I'm finished, the fingertips without fingernails will be my own.

Is this a dilemma unique to Jeff-the-aspiring-novelist?  Care to enlighten this suddenly frightened writer?  Have any insights or recommendations you'd care to share?  I'll let you borrow my muse. :)


  1. I am a perfectionist myself. I am never satisfied with my work, ever. I am currently working on a book based on my life, so I don't have to use my imagination (which is a good thing!).

    I suppose try not to overthink it and try to just let the words flow and then go back a few days later and rework that. I have done that a few times with success.

    Best of luck! Hope everything works out wonderfully for you!

    1. Good advice! And thanks! I did just that last night and drove myself to tears for what I'd done, but that's my next post. I suppose it's the only way though. We learn by doing.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. The ending is the hardest part for me too. To me, books live and die by how they end. Yeah, no pressure. :)

    Good luck to you.

    1. Thank-you! I'm glad it's not "just a me thing" that I'm struggling with. And yes, the endings are so very important. Robin Hobb ended her Farseer Trilogy on such a bittersweet note. I LOVED it! (Heard others who weren't quite so thrilled with it, but it worked for me. It just seemed... "right" somehow.)

      Glad you dropped by!

  3. Hemingway wrote the ending of "A Farewell to Arms" something like twenty-five times. So getting it right is important. I just write mine and, if it doesn't work the way I think it should, I rewrite or tweak it endlessly until it feels right. Good luck. And thank you for your comments on my blog. I appreciate it.

    1. I think I'd be willing to pay the price of a couple dozen rewrites if it meant I'd end up with perfection. Although I doubt I'll still be writing in the year 2287. (The spirit is willing, but the flesh is mortal.)

      And you're welcome!

  4. First, a big thanks for following my blog- The Writer's Block. I'm now a follower of yours, which is great BTW. Second, congrats on the almost completion of your novel. You're rounding third and home is clearly in sight. What a fabulous, unforgetable feeling! Third, I was suppose to give advice, right? Well, my endings are always clearly in my mind. Everything else is just a means to the dramatic end. Just sit back, let it flow, and don't force anything (readers are sensitive to that sort of thing). Relax. Your story is there; just let it flow like that river you were talking about. :)

    1. Welcome Vanessa! Glad you joined! And thanks for the compliment and congrats too!

      Good advice there about forcing it. I think that's what has been plaguing me of late. Positioning the characters where they need to be is coming across (to me) as forced. I shall try to relax and approach the ending like I did the beginning. Who knows? Maybe it will flow if I quit over-thinking it all?