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.