That Difficult Phase - Word Count 61,646 (wp) 76,500 (pr)

Thursday, May 17, 2007, 8:55 PM

For the third time in my life, I have reached that difficult phase in writing a novel - approaching the climax. The first time I was here was about four years ago during my first serious attempt at writing a novel. I got that story to about 60,000 word processor words, just at the brink of the big finish, but it never got to the end. There are various reasons for this (including moving house in the middle of it), but the main one was I didn't have an ending. I kind of thought it would wrap itself up when I got there. It didn't.

Big lesson learned, there. I don't know how it works for other people, but for me, I need an opening and an ending, and my job is then to join the two. I made another fundamental mistake, but I'll come back to that in a moment.

With my last novel, my first completed one, I struggled at the same stage. I did a lot of procrastinating (and anyone who writes knows what that's like), and even though I had an ending, I had to fight really hard to get it written. At the time I realised why, and posted about it. It was because my life had been dominated by this story for ten weeks and I didn't want to let it go. I've experienced that before with other long-term projects I've been involved in, such as my limited amount of film and theatre work. Although you desperately want to see the project through, part of you also hates to see it done with.

I'm at that stage with the new novel. All the pieces have fallen into place. I have an ending all worked out (and it's pretty explosive, with an emotionally charged denouement). It just seems so hard to actually start writing that last sequence of scenes. 'Cos then it'll be over.

There's one thing I'm happy about, though, which involves the lesson I mentioned earlier. I consider my work in progress to be my third novel, even though the first wasn't completed. It was so close to finished it might as well have been, and I learned a lot from it. One lesson I didn't learn in time for the second novel, though, was this:

Don't lose sight of what it's about.

In both my previous efforts, I lost track of what the story was supposed to be about in the first place. I took too many detours as I fell in love with other characters and sub plots, so much so, the main plot lost its direction. There was a good setup for both stories, and interesting situations with complex protagonists and antagonists. But somewhere along the way, it all kind of got away from me. I knew this with the first novel at the time, but it came as a surprise with Conduit, my first complete novel. It wasn't until I sat down to write a hook I realised I was in trouble. When I tried to put my finger on what the story was about (not who it was about, or where it was about, but what it was about) I just couldn't do it.

That was a hard lesson learned. At some point after the first draft of the WIP is done I'll go back to Conduit and see if I can find its backbone again and reshape the novel around that.

But, here's the good news. The new novel doesn't suffer this malady. It has remained focused all the way through, and will remain so right until the closing words (and unlike the previous two efforts, I know exactly what they'll be). The result is, I think, a lean, forward moving plot with various layers and subplots, but a solid backbone that joins the first word to the last.

Now I just need to finish the bloody thing.



Blogger sex scenes at starbucks said...

Oh come on. You're not going to actually LEAVE the book when the draft is over. You've got months of revisions, I'm sure.

A joyous time, revision time is.

Sounds like you need to keep half an eye on your next project as well. A word of advice, though: don't do like me and write a novel, revise another, draft and revise four short stories, write a screenplay with a friend, and edit a magazine all in one year.

Hope to get your story to you tonight or tomorrow.

12:08 AM  
Blogger Daphne Major said...

I feel your pain. I'm in similar circumstances, although for me its not the climax thats causing angst. I've written the big finish, and the denouement... I'm okay with that part. I have lots of material that works its way up to the climax, too. I have about 80,000 words...

My problem is I can not longer ascertain WHICH of those words matter. I guess I just need to step back and re-analyze. I've got my plot arc-ed out...etc., etc. But when I go back and read certain bits I begin to think 'who cares'. Very unlike my previous feelings that this was a tale in need of urgent telling.

Anyway. Miss Snark (may she slush in peace) gave me good advice once...which is to walk away from it, look at art, revive my inner self, etc., and then come back to the editing.

Good luck with your WIP!

8:38 PM  
Blogger Conduit said...

Yep, you can't rewrite when it's too fresh. My last novel needs a serious going over, and that's only become clear now that I've had a few months away from it.

Good luck with your revisions!

8:43 PM  
Blogger McKoala said...

I still want to read it! Am now working on something new (the stuff that's been on the crapometer), when, really, I should be revising Maureen (remember her?), but I'm having fun with India!

4:18 AM  
Blogger sex scenes at starbucks said...

I heard differently this weekend. Real working writers don't have much time to put things aside--I sure as hell don't (except when it's to work on one of the other four projects I have going). The more I think about process, the more I believe that you have to get to the meat of what you're trying to say and strive to make every story element add a layer.

In my somewhat limited experience with your writing, C, I don't think you have a problem figuring all that out. Ditto on wanting to read it right away! Heh. You're on my summer reading list. How about that?

8:24 PM  
Blogger Conduit said...

All the more reason for me to get my finger out and get it written. I had hoped for the end of May, but I think mid June's looking more likely now.

8:38 PM  

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