The End is Nigh (Nearly)

I almost always have trouble figuring out the endings of my novels, but Camp Expendable sets a new record for me. Most of the novel has been through several rounds of editing and revision, bringing it very close to being publishable. And the last chapter still isn’t finished. I tackled it yesterday, determined to get the stubborn thing done, but didn’t quite make it. 400 words or so brought it up to 2,100, with one character’s fate still not determined. Does he die of the influenza that has him in its grip , or does he live to be executed for murder, as he deserves?

I don’t want the chapter to be a victim of the “Wrap it up and be done with it.” attitude that always comes on after months of intense work. That’s what happened to Privileged Lives, and it’s why I’ll be putting out a second edition after correcting all the problems that should have prevented me from publishing it in the first place.

On the face of it, Privileged Lives should have taught me not to publish just a few months after writing a book during NaNoWriMo. But I live to learn, and in the years since writing Privileged Lives, my writing has improved immensely. So, rather than repeating that mistake, I learned from it. Sometimes, it makes sense to give a book more time, even years. But when you have WIPs stacked to the digital ceiling, it makes sense to learn the best ways of getting the job done.

Sometimes, of course, we don’t have any choice but to stretch out the time from first draft to publication. Life gets in the way, or other writing projects sink their hooks in and demand our attention. But, unless you’re determined to make a living from your writing, and intend to churn the books out on an assembly line, it’s a reasonable goal to produce a new book two to four times a year. The goal isn’t simply to write faster, but to learn as you go and use that knowledge to eliminate, as far possible, the stumbling blocks that slow you down.

2016 will test whether I’m able to make use of that wisdom. Right now I have a novel to finish.

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6 thoughts on “The End is Nigh (Nearly)

    1. As annoying as it can be to get to the last chapter and still not know how the book ends, I don’t want to find a way to avoid it. Some stories have an ending you know right from the beginning, and others depend on the characters to figure it out. I wrote over 1,000 words yesterday, some of it, stuff that I never would have thought of if I’d had it all planned out.

  1. I can’t start writing now without knowing exactly where the end is, what it is, and whether I’m okay with it. I didn’t start that way, but my first novel, while interesting (and unpublishable), kept twisting on me and revealing things I knew – but my readers didn’t.

    If I rewrite parts of it, it will be to put a few foreshadowings in to point the way (so in hindsight someone can say they knew something was up).

    I don’t think you can do that without have SOMETHING – a rough draft actually written, an idea you’ve been playing with until it told a whole story in your head, a bunch of notes.

    Just don’t wimp out – unsatisfying endings after someone has been reading the whole book are annoying.

    Once you DO know where it goes, the pruning shears can clean up the rest. If you can stand to prune a lot. And write more into the end so it DOES satisfy, if it was skimpy before.

    I think writers differ more on when they let the WIP out the door as ‘finished’ more than on how they ultimately get there. Pros take the time.

    1. I so agree on how much writers differ, about everything really. And I think it can be helpful when oddballs like me speak up about their own way of handling endings, and when they think they’ve done the best job they can do.

      And there’s a big difference between people who plunge into a story without any idea of where they want it to go, and those who’ve put a lot of thought into it, have a pretty idea of where it’s heading, and are willing to live with a certain amount of uncertainty. In that, you and I aren’t very different. We both have a specific story we want to write, and we have at least a solid framework to build on.

        1. I’ve seen those complaints. They say it’s as if they’ve already written it and are just repeating themselves. I suppose that’s the basis for the claim that outlining kills creativity. Since it isn’t true for everyone, that makes it important to figure out your own way of working instead of trying to do the “correct” thing.

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