Tag Archives: endings

How to Know When It’s Really the End

For the last few months, I’ve known most of the story and plot of my Aanora story, except for the climax and how my characters would resolve it. Sometimes it’s better not to know everything before writing in order to be open to the characters and their motivations, behavior, thoughts, and emotions. When I began this story, I knew very little. As I wrote, I began to see possibilities, and part of my writing process on this story has been to explore those possibilities. I knew from the beginning the very last scene, however. My challenge, I knew also, was to get there.

While some writers outline a story in detail, I tend to do rough and tumble outlines, i.e. throwing ideas down on paper for the different sections of the story. Sketch out scenes to test their place — do they work in the context of this particular story? Ask myself a lot of questions about each of the primary characters — what do they want? What will they do to get it? What is their primary fear? What is their primary emotional vulnerability? Each character is a potential conflict or obstacle for the protagonist. Who is the villain? I couldn’t answer this question for a long time. I thought it was this one character who kept popping into my mind, but then I suddenly realized that character was not at all what he seemed. When I dug deeper, I discovered a layer of the story that gave me the path to the climax although I didn’t know it at the time.

I did a rough sketch of the climax and realized that I’d created an impossible situation for my characters. A no-win situation. What I didn’t realize, of course, was that the villain provided the way to resolve it. Instead, I decided to just write my way to the climax and hope that by the time I got there, I’d have the answer to how to resolve it. “Trust in the process” the note says over my desk, and I decided I’d do just that.

Credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech.

Last Saturday, as I was writing closer and closer to the climax, I realized, no, it wasn’t closer and closer — I was there. Indeed, there my characters were, facing down the villain, surrounded, alone, with apparently no way out. I wrote right up to the moment the villain demands their surrender and I stopped. I couldn’t write any farther because I really didn’t know what would happen next. What did my characters want? What were they thinking? Feeling? Did they have the intelligence and imagination to figure out how to get out of this alive?

The real questions were: What was I thinking? What did I want? Did I have the intelligence and imagination to figure out how to get them out of the situation alive?

When I put away my writing last Saturday, I was in despair. I knew I was close to finishing the story. I wanted to finish it. The doubts poured into my mind. I decided to focus on other things like chores, British mysteries on PBS, and getting a lot of sleep. The next morning, however, I still didn’t know what to do. I read the Sunday newspaper over breakfast, then got in the shower. What a magic place a shower can be! With the water beating down on my head, the sweet scents of the soap and shampoo, feeling clean and relaxed and warm, my mind swimming around with my imagination. In fact, I wasn’t even thinking about Aanora. The idea just emerged, like a diver rising up through the depths of a lake to break the water’s glittering surface in the sunshine. There it was. The answer.

The right answer. How did I know? I felt it in my bones, a tingling through my muscles and skin, a mental settling down into the deep, comfortable chair of that ending. The action could not be any other way for this story and its characters. They need to work together, but at the same time, Aanora needs to step up and do her part. She was, after all, the reason they were in this pickle. Total excitement! The ideas started to flow fast and furious — ideas for other parts of the story in order to set the stage properly for the climax’s resolution.  But last Sunday, I had the time only to write notes so I wouldn’t forget. Today, after living with the ideas for five days, I get to finally step inside the story again and write the climax and resolution. I’m so excited.

Trust in the process.


Endings and Blocks

What’s harder than writing?  Publishing it.

Last weekend, I read and judged scholarship essays for the local Mensa group.  It’s something I do every year about this time, and this year, I was very much in an editing mode.  A week ago yesterday, I finished the revisions on Perceval’s Secret.  Since then, I’ve been finishing up the front pages, back pages, choosing the font for the e-book (Libre Baskerville at Google Fonts), and researching metadata.  Next step?  Contact the e-formatting company.

stop sign

But I feel frozen in place.  My mind veers off that road into a side road that leads anywhere but to publication.  What’s happening to me?  I’ve not had this issue with the essays I’ve published or my monthly column for Mensagenda.  This isn’t exactly writer’s block.  I’ve written about writer’s block twice before, here and here.  My stomach has clutched into a nauseated knot.  I feel like I’m falling and there’s nothing to stop my fall.  This is totally emotional, not rational.

Have you ever wanted something so much, and was so important to you, that you couldn’t move?  It’s fear.

Fear of failure, probably, more than anything.  There’s a lot riding on this publication, e.g. being able to pay my bills.  What if the book doesn’t sell?  That is a possibility.  But I have yet to meet someone who wasn’t interested in reading it after I pitched it.  I guess all the years I queried agents and publishers before are catching up to me.  They are part of the reason I’m e-publishing the novel now, but there’s that niggling nagging feeling of fear that maybe they were right.  Well, they were!  Since the last go-around with agents, I’ve done a line edit, worked with an excellent editor, and improved the book in every way.

Small steps.  Put one foot in front of the other.

It’s not like I have no support, no cheering section, nobody waiting for it to go on sale so they could buy and read it.  It’s just very hard to take the final steps to publication.  Would it be easier if I were working with a traditional publisher?  Probably not.  In a way, it’s better that I’m doing it myself so that I can harass myself about the details instead of someone else.  So, how close am I?

I plan to send an e-mail to the e-formatting company today.  Maybe, I’ll be sending them the manuscript sometime next week.  There will be a proofing step, I’m sure, while they are formatting.  After that, I’ll receive the two e-files that I’ll be able to upload to Kindle, Nook and Kobo.  Then I’ll be up to my ears in marketing tasks, getting the word out, working with AuthorBuzz, registering the two books at Bowker, updating various web pages for the novel, etc.  A lot of work that will keep my mind occupied, at least for a while.

And what about writing?  Well, yes, I have writing projects lined up: an essay about an Iraqi war vet I met, a science fiction short story, catching up with the short stories I have posted on Wattpad, and finally the two biggies: Perceval’s Shadow (novel number 2 in the series) and the essay collection on being a successful patient.  I definitely have enough work to keep me busy.


But I need money, like everyone else.  My bank accounts are bleeding and so far I’ve not found a job, even a part-time job, to replenish them.  So, publication of Perceval’s Secret also means income for me, and that’s huge.  Far too huge than I want it to be.  I’d write whether or not I was paid, but I’m sure my landlord wouldn’t like that nor the electric company, phone company, etc., etc.  So, I think this nauseating fear I feel is really about money — will the novel sell so that I can pay off the debt I’ve incurred in order to publish it?  Will it earn enough to keep me going for another year or two until I have the second novel ready for publication?

I cannot imagine that these concerns are not the most common concerns in the world for writers.  It’s natural that they would come to a head as I’m ending my job as a writer on the first novel.  The fear has thrown up a block of ice to freeze me in place.  How do I melt?