Monday, December 28, 2015

Why I Struggle at the End of Novels

It’s not like when you know your girlfriend is going to break up with you so you avoid answering her calls. No, if my manuscript had the balls to end it itself it’d be a much different story. But we both know the end is very well at hand, and yet it just sits there pretending to be oblivious.

As you can imagine, after two years, I’ve begun to hate its smug face.

For starters, two years is a long time for us to be together. For comparison, my last novel took five months, and it was twice the size it should be. Three months is my average.

Why did it take so long? Cause she’s a bitch.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Are all of my manuscripts women? I don’t know, you’d have to ask them. Considering their mood swings, I’m going to say yes.

I wrote most of this novel in a reasonable timeframe. Then, about 70,000 words in, I just stopped. There’s many reasons for this. Most of them I don’t know. But it’s not that uncommon for me to abandon a project mid-swing.

I stopped writing for a while, several months, I think. Then, in attempts to force myself to get back on the horse, find the other fish in the sea, count my chickens before they hatched, I played around with working on several projects, none of which being this book. I wrote a 100 page outline, two 50,000 word partial manuscripts for National Novel Writing Month, the complete draft of my monstrous manuscript, and about seven works anywhere from 20,000-60,000 words long. In this time, I very much lost track of what I was trying to do with this one work—though I had my notes. I tried to get back into the rhythm, but I kept telling myself I needed to read it. Because I procrastinated on reading it, I procrastinated on writing it.

Then I decided to keep going without. I managed to get some distance, but I still wasn’t working like I once had been, unable to get the motivation to do anything with my career.

It wasn’t until back in September in which a fit of helplessness lead me to empowerment. I finally downloaded a PDF onto my phone and sat at my sandwich shop job reading. I got through it with great encouragement, finally forced myself to rewrite a section I’d written and lost. By my 26th birthday, I told myself I was going to make this year be what I wanted it to be and would write every day.

Traveling to Australia and National Novel Writing Month got in the way, but when December rolled around, I managed to get back into the swing of things.

I am this close to finishing it. My boyfriend keeps coming in and saying, “Why aren’t you done yet?” I’ve been writing an excess of blogs and short stories, I’ve been staring at my computer, I’ve been sewing, planning for Christmas, and letting myself go to bed at nine. I refuse to finish.

This is nothing new.

The manuscript that originally inspired Stories of the Wyrd was approximately 10,000-5,000 words from being finished before I’d abandoned it. I may have never picked it up again except when I realized it was perfect for the online serial I wanted to do.

I remember that at the end of most of my works I find myself in this funk, procrastinating and attempting to avoid working on it.

“Why are you having such a hard time coming up with an ending?” the boyfriend asks.

I’m not actually. I know exactly what’s going to happen.

I’m usually not an outliner, though I have in the past, and to good results. I spend a lot of time as I write considering the ending, and often by that point I have a pretty solid one in mind. In fact, I would say that most of my editing is about the beginning whereas the ending tends to need little work. The problem is, there’s less freedom in it, less room to write, to grow, to find out what’s going to happen next. I know exactly what will happen moment to moment, and unless something slips out of my character’s mouth—which granted does often enough—there is little that is unexpected to me.

And that is hard.

It becomes all about pacing, all about building tension and ambiance. In this case, it’s several fight scenes of varying sizes. I can’t let the flow get me there, I can’t say, “Well if it comes up, it comes up.” Certain things have to be discussed now. There’s no other time for it. I may be able to go back and add it in earlier, but there’s a reason it hasn’t been resolved before this moment.

And I’m impatient. The book is done in my mind. I’m already on to considering other things—which story do I work on next? How can I make a spaceship that seems organic? How can I combine plan A with plan B? How should I experiment with outlining?

Because the story is finished, I’m already done. Now it’s just the boring work of putting the words right.

Yet, it must be done.

I love this story, as much as I hate it, and I have high expectations for it. The ending is great, unless I speed through it, so I just need to sit down and get it over with. Now that Christmas is over and the New Year is coming, now that I want to get caught up on the days I missed avoiding her, I’m going to knock it out. Let’s try for tomorrow. The next day at the max. I will turn into myself of yore and just force myself to do it.

Endings suck, so let’s get this over with.