Ending at The End

I was just reviewing the books that I’ve read this year in preparation for a future post, and it occurred to me that there were a lot of great reads. Action, adventure, etc. The build to the climax was generally good in all the books I’ve read (I’m excluding the non-fiction pieces at the moment, because, well, my reasons should be obvious….).

My biggest beef with the ‘problem’ books was the ending, in almost every case. In one way or another I was let down (sometimes a little, sometimes a lot) by the turn the story took. Now that I’m writing the ending chapters of FJR–the ‘last bit’ as Deb calls it–I’m finding that my ‘inner heckler’–as Deb calls it–is up and yelling loudly.

“You can’t do it that way!”
“No one will like this!”
“You’re gonna piss your readers off by doing that!”
“You’re going to disappoint everyone and no one will read your next batch of drivel.” (This one is particularly loud.)

It just won’t stop. I’m sure part of the problem is the time of year. It’s hard to get ‘alone time’–as I call it–when there’s relatives/dogs/cats around during the holidays. When I do have a free half hour or so, I get into a rhythm and, inevitably, am interrupted.

Yes, I realize that I’m whining after the whole “Cowboy Up” speechiness. It’s not that I don’t want to write it. I just have to find a way to shut everything else up. Then, when I type “The End”, I’m done for this year. I’m gonna go read a ton of books and hopefully, when I’m ready to revise, those books will have shown me how to end at the end.

Cowboy Up

Tonight I had a conversation with my mother about westerns (movies specifically).

Westerns are a very traditional structure, story-wise. Hero falls into great calamity, everything looks dark, then the cowboy gets up off his duff and does the hard work/killing/etc. Sometimes it’s a happy ending, sometimes it’s a sad ending, but dammit, the cowboy did something.

Recently the writing has been coming hard for me, doubly hard since last month was so prolific. Then, during the conversation with my mother (maybe you all should have conversations with your mothers and see if something cool happens…if you don’t have a mother, dude, I’m sorry) I realized the reason I was not doing so well this month was because I slowed down. I got off the horse. Thought that was okay because I’d done so much earlier.

The truth is this: the more you do, the more you can do, the more you are capable of doing, and the more you want to do it. You’ve got to be a cowboy. Say damn it all and ride all night if you have to. That train in Yuma is not going to wait for you–it’s leaving at 3:10. You have to get to it.

When you’re done, done, that’s when you rest. Not before. Yes, it’s hard. It’s supposed to be.

Cowboy up.

Strange and Norrell

Here’s something that’ll get to the friendly-neighborhood-demon (hey, she said it)…

I finished reading the gigantic book Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell these last couple days.

First, let me say that I was very impressed by Clarke’s use of language. She captured the feel of Lord Byron/Jane Austen’s world very well. I felt like I was reading a real history, which was incredibly cool.

::Spoiler:: (If you haven’t read it all the way to the end and you want to, stop reading…now)

I was bothered by the ending, not because of the ending, but because of what was not put in the book. For example, there is a ‘gentleman with thistle down hair’–a fairy–who wreaks all kinds of havoc upon, well, everyone in the book. We’re shown bits of his world. Then he dies. With his death, it’s like all the parts of Faery/Fairy/etc (the world outside and within our own) die too. I feel like we spent all this time in Clarke’s world but never got to spend any time there.

For my part, I thought at least Strange would turn out to be even more of an adventurer. Norrell’s a bookish, selfish man. Strange, while selfish, has a lot more action going on. There’s a conflict over the King’s Roads–it’s kinda like Chekov’s gun. It lays out in an earlier act. But then it never really goes off. It hovers there, like a character picked up the gun from the mantle, but then it never sets off.

The subplots are, in many ways, more interesting for me. I love Stephen Black and Lady Pole and Arabella–all the people who are trapped by the magic Norrell and Strange struggle so hard to understand (but in the end, never truly can). Quite frankly, I’d follow a novel based just around these guys. They were great! Conflicted. Trapped. I’d like to see if Stephen Black could’ve managed to save them all without the magicians. He definitely worked hard enough….

Good news though, for those who enjoyed a lot of Faery/Fairy/etc. Clarke has a new book coming out, with short stories about said world. Should be good.

…and that’s what I was doing while I was supposed to be finishing my own novel.


Pirates of the writerly kind would do well to look at the following…

***Warning, you may spend your hard-earned booty ($$$)


The Home Stretch

Somewhere I read that the last 20% of a novel is the hardest part to write. I’m believing that I concur.

Part of it is because you say goodbye to the freshness of your characters–after this it’s all editting and revising. Doesn’t seem like there’s any new surprises. (Unless you want to keep writing the same book for the next twenty years….)

Another part is the ‘cleaning up’ process. The first half of a novel is about making a mess. The second half is about cleaning that mess up. As anyone with small children (or anyone who has even vaguely seen a small child) knows, making the mess is infinitely easier than cleaning it up. At the end, there has to be a resolution. A raison d’etre.

Right now, I know how it ends. The question is whether or not I can pull it off. Does anyone else know how to handle this? Or should I shut up and just do it?

Looking at the Bright Side of Life

I just handed of FJR to Shane so that he would be so sweet as to print out the copies I need for tomorrow. It occurred to me that I have been playing negative Nellie on myself. I’ve been so hard on myself for ‘not finishing’ that I’ve overlooked the fact that I more than doubled a year and half’s worth of writing in one month. Count it: 1 month.

I figured out cool things about my characters. I put a ton of words on paper. 25,000 words in a month. That’s a lot for me, and I’m sure it’s nothing to be sneezed at, even by folks going into NaNoWriMo. (Though with the exhausting part of turning out that many words, I’m thinking my NaNo goal is going to shrink =) Are the words good? Who the fuck cares? Not me, not right now. Not as I watch page after page churn out from the printer. I’m all smiles.

NaNo Month–I’ll Be Short

I’ll be short on two fronts:
1. There’s no way I can finish FJR by Monday. I’ll be two chapters shy. But–before the demons come out! I will give what I have to my first readers (yes, Ali, that’s you!) and e-mail the final two chapters later in the month. –So far I’m only making copies for Ali, Deb, John, and Nicole…can’t afford to do much else.
2. This stalls my NaNo attempt for a bit too. So, I’ll make sure that I still work a month and go into the first week of December with the random piece. (I have to wait to use my sticks, John. I’m sooo disappointed. But I’m glad they’re working for you so far.)