Friday, August 10, 2012

Getting To "The End"

There seems to be a lot of hype centered around the "blank first page".  It is a thing many writers seem to be deathly afraid of, like the authorial equivalent of the giant squid or Medusa.  Every writing adviser has advice for the just-beginning writer.  "Just start writing!" they trumpet.  "Just get something down!"

Well, guess what?  Starting has never been my problem (excuse me while I duck the rotten fruit being hurled at me). 

I can't even count the number of books and stories I've started throughout my writing career- even before it was a career, per se.  There have been tons of them.  Literally, tons.  I can even remember a few of them.  I can remember the jubilant feeling of "Hey, I think I've really got something here" as I soared through the first twenty, thirty, even forty pages.  Once, I even reached page fifty!

But then something would happen.  Jitters, self-doubt, boredom, I don't know how quite to describe it.  Maybe it was a combination of all those things.  But whatever it was, all of a sudden my writing would slow to a trickle, then a drop, then finally, would fizzle out altogether.  This happened time after time after time.

Hence why- as I said in a previous post- reaching page 200 of my current novel was so exciting to me.  It represented a milestone I had never reached before.  That milestone now pages behind me, my first draft is in its final pages.  Which brings me to a hurdle I have never faced before.

How the hell do I finish?

Lest I sound like some stereotypical, anxiety-written, "afraid to say goodbye" writer, let me clarify.  I know how I want my novel to end.  Hell, I've outlined the shit out of the thing.  And I like my characters, and want to see them end up happy together.  But Jesus, the getting there is just straight painful!

I've come up with several things that I think could be responsible for this odd problem.  And in fashionable list form, here they are:

1) This is virgin territory.   Like I said, I've never made it this far before.  Over the years, I've honed just about every aspect of writing: my dialogue sparkles, my scenic descriptions would make you want to buy a plane ticket to the middle of nowhere (which is where my novel is set), my characterization is so realistic you'd think I was a shrink (close: I've just seen a lot of them... ahem.).  The ending is the one area that up to now I've never had the opportunity to practice.

2) The ending I planned was poorly set-up.  That's right, for all the authorial wizardry I claimed to possess in the previous paragraph, apparently I'm still not perfect (I know; it came as a shock to me, too).  As I mentioned, I know how I want my novel to end.  Not to spoil things, but it's big, epic, emotional... in short, it's bloody perfect.  Unfortunately, I didn't give it the foundation a flashy ending requires.  This is something I will definitely fix in the rewrite (thank god for rewrites!).

3) Everything was happening too quickly.  That big, epic, emotional ending I have planned?  As it turns out, it wasn't nearly as effective when I ended up crushing it into three bone-dry pages.  I think a lot of people run into this problem.  You get so excited about something that your words start going a million miles a minutes, and before you know it, your audience is either hopelessly lost or (worse!) hopelessly bored.  On some level, I knew this, and have been painfully, deliberately dragging out my final chapters to avoid falling into that trap.  I mean, I'll fix it all later, but still...

So this is where I am, folks.  Almost (kind of) done.  Don't give up on me, yet! 

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