28 March 2008

The End.

Last Saturday, March 22nd, I wrote the final word in my work in progress. The grand total is over 80,000 words. Wait, let me write that out: eighty THOUSAND words. As my mom once said, that's a lot of words when you have to choose each one individually.

I didn't immediately rush here to celebrate with bloggy happiness because the feeling was more subdued than that. I was happy, sure, but also slightly sad, and somewhat cut adrift. I began writing that book in February of last year. Over a year of work. Also, the story was associated with a previous book I wrote, so that's over one hundred and sixty thousand words following the same characters, the same world. Although I get to edit the heck out of it (and that may take another year, if not more, and it may end up so different it's like a different book,) I can't ever write that final word again. That experience is over. It's sort of startling. It's also a huge triumph.

I've printed it out and put it in a fantastic acid green binder, For My Consideration, red pen ready. I'm letting it sit a few days (weeks? who knows?) In the meantime, I still have the urge to write on a regular basis. Yesterday morning I sat down and produced 500 words of a new project that I know almost nothing about. A character and her situation just came into my head, so I explored it a little. It isn't the most effective way to write, but it's how I ended up writing both my first book and the one I wrote before my latest. So I'm going to go with it, and happily.

Today, I have no words of wisdom for writers. Just triumph and mourning to share.

16 March 2008

Procrastination made scientific

As I get closer to the finish line in this manuscript, I find more and more ways to procrastinate. I'm sure it becomes something of an art form in the life of every person who tries to write: creative procrastination, finely manicured time wasting.

I think I hit the jackpot this time. StumbleUpon is an add-on for your web browser that produces, with the click of one button, some random site that matches your preferences for likes and dislikes. Then you explore the site, decide if you like it or dislike it, and move on. Sometimes the result is useless (read: dull, and not at all distracting.) Other times, it's pure procrastination bliss.

Shockingly, one of my preferred interests is "writing." So far I've found three good writing tools via StumbleUpon.

Here's a creative writing prompt generator that will give a new suggestion with every click.

This site spits out random plot points to help shake things up and move your story along.

And here you can read and contribute one sentence stories that aren't just interesting for themselves and as a writing exercise but also suggest backstory that can inspire and remind you of all the little bits and pieces that make up a good plot.

This add-on turns wandering uselessly on the internet into a winnable sport - and it's yet another information organizer that makes both the writer and the librarian in me ecstatic. However, despite it I have less than 4000 words left to write, and I'm happily cruising along in that end-spree that comes when there's nothing left to write but the crunchy bones and final flourishes.

And then of course there's the nit-picky re-writing and editing to come. At least I'll have a good method of procrastination for those exciting months.

04 March 2008

The Beginning of the End

I hit 65,000 words in my current novel this weekend. 15,000 words to go. The home stretch. And I want it to be good. I've set up the mysteries, the threads of plot and conflicts between characters and all that good stuff, and I really want an ending that will push all the right buttons: revelation, satisfaction, resolution. Not a twist, but not a predictable line, either. Something that will stay with a reader for the right reasons, rather than because it didn't make sense or didn't feel true. I know "what happens" in the end. I just need to figure out how to say it best.

Not much to ask, hey. "Oh, don't worry, you've spent about a year writing the rest of it, just tack on something quickly and let it go." Sure thing. The problem is that I feel like if the ending isn't good enough, I may as well have not written the entire thing. How many times have you seen a movie or read a book and thought, "It was good, but it fell apart in the end"? I don't want to be that author.

I asked my online writing forum what they looked for in a really good ending. I got great answers: a non-obvious restatement of theme, something unusual, a change or choice of non-change in characters, a definite ending instead of just an end, a powerful truth, a devastating change, a natural point to stop that flows from the story... and more. I loved hearing it all and reminding myself of my own favourite endings and why they stuck with me.

I adore the ending of Oscar & Lucinda, because although it's tragic and you can't read the story without hoping it will end otherwise, it perfectly fits both the theme of the story and the natural inclinations of the characters. If it were real life, and real life were poetic instead of mundane, this is what would have happened. Maybe that's the trick: making something that logically has to happen into something that makes a statement about everything you've said beforehand.

Of course, that could get irritating. Nobody likes the sticky-sweet of "I told you so" or a lesson learned so ferociously that it feels like a sermon. Even the role of the tragic hero has been sullied by slow violin music in epic Hollywood films. This stuff can't be forced. If it's a revelation, it has to be a pure one. It has to seem like it came from within the reader, rather than off the page.

How incredibly intimidating. So, understanding a thing somewhat doesn't make it any easier to write. Good to know.

Tonight is the meeting of the Terrace Writers' Guild. Having missed the last two meetings because of tragic circumstances (okay, not tragic, but the results were tragic - I missed the meetings!), I'm very excited about tonight. Maybe my comrades will have an idea of how to transfer this apparent wisdom into useful practice.
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