And the chorus girls went: YMMV! (This really might be a personal issue, but it might just not. Thus, here we go.)
Recently I’ve realized that I’m about to finish this NaNo 2019 novel in a few days’ time. It’s not that weird, per se—NaNo will be done in a few days, too! But this particular feeling of ‘just about to be finished with a novel’ is what’s really troubling me, not the imminent dissapearance of context. (If you write outside of NaNo, you just might have to face the facts—you’re a writer. Tough.)
A personal problem I’ve been having is that, when I come close to the end of a novel I’ve been writing, I start slowing down. I start thinking bad, bad things about the novel in question (something like day two, but on a smaller level), and my brain apparently starts trying to convince me there really is no need to finish the novel altogether.
Dissecting the feeling, as I’m prone to do with most feelings, I believe that a segment of the issue is that I don’t really want to part with the novel’s world—both the setting and the characters. (Plots are a pretty distant third, to me, and I’m sorry to say that it shows in the quality of plots in my writing. We’re aware of the issue and we’re working on it, thank you very much.)
Another issue with actually finishing a book is that, after having spend several tens of thousands of words in a novel, I simply get tired. Even when going at a slower pace than this year’s Nano—two to three months per novel has been my sweet spot this year—it takes time. And brainpower. And some personal life restructuring. And guts. And the tiredness is real. (Luckily, it’s also manageable.)
Then there’s the fact that rushing an ending to a novel is still the practice which comes the easiest to me. Since I’m still new to this whole noveling thing (having grown up writing short stories), the marathon writing of a novel tends to lull me into the feeling that, after the main conflict of a novel is resolved, there really isn’t all that much to work on afterwards.
But, as a reader, I’ve grown more and more attuned to everything that comes after the main fight (or whatever the equivalent of it is in a novel I’m reading at a time) (but mostly, it’s the grand fight) (because I love my romance novels with a tangible side of angst) and how important it is to the conclusion of my reader experience with a certain book. Taking things back down from the final point of a problem (taking up posts as math teachers in villages, raising your late lover’s kids in a small town on the coast, or leaving glasses in someone’s honor at the edge of a fountain or a fireplace or whatever it was that I can’t now recall because I’ve gotten all teary), giving the surviving characters some sort of a wrap up, giving the reader a “warm feeling” (which is something I’ve read in a book on how to write crime novels, if I’m not mistaken, and that’s a big deal in itself) and making the reader, if you’re lucky, wish for more of your writing, is rather important.
The only problem is that I have to remind myself that, as a writer, almost constantly. The need to rush things in a novel I’m working on at any point is an issue even more than in regards with the ending itself—it’s something I’m struggling with in other spots in the novel, too, because I have all this quirky and scary and funny details lined up for later in the story, but I have to go through all the intros first and, put simply, in order to have the end as impactful as I want it to be, I need the characters to fall for each other as hard as I want them to fall, and that requires development and time. (We’re working on that, too.)
But my main issue with actually writing a novel to its end, the issue I’ve kept for last, is that finishing a novel, at this point in my life, when I’m still quite the beginner, means that I have to go on to face everything that comes after ‘the end’, from a writer’s perspective.
That means coming down from the emotional ups and downs which follow writing a story you care about. (At this point, I’m only still writing those kinds of stories—and I’m not exactly sure if I’ll ever reach a point when I don’t.) That means losing your excuse not to do the dishes or the cooking or the cleaning (unless you’re that type of procrastinator, and your house is already gleaming)—at least until you start the next novel or non-writing project. (Cosmaking, I’m looking at you.) That means facing the most awful curse word I can think of, as a writer, in my personal dictionary: editing. (Some people call it revision. No need to get picky.)
With time and (several novels worth of) practice, I have managed to keep shortening the editing process down considerably (it took two years to edit my first novel in print—time mostly spent in actual rewriting), but the first drafts I do now still need actual, heavy work later in their lives, and that means I have to come back to them, face each and every bad choice I’ve done while writing them (some due to lack of skill, some due to boredom, some due to the time pressure, and some due to forgetting what the novel was actually about), fix them, cut the excess words (words I’ve written! spent time on! missed tv shows for!), try to work around bad plotting, try to remember all the tiny little details of character design I’ve had so much fun with in the early days of writing them, and mold the raw material into something somebody might have fun while reading, later.
And, even after all that, if it works, if I get the story out into the world in any way, I’ll still have to face the repercussions. I’ve been lucky enough, in the past few years, to talk to actual people who’ve actually read my novel, and some of them (quite a few!) have never even met me before in their lives! (Wow. Newb.) I’ve had people point out issues I’d been aware of, issues I haven’t been aware of, and even tell me their own wishes, as a reader, about extra detail in the novel. Since the novel I’ve been writing for NaNo 2019, the already mentioned Johnny’s Girls, has been designed around a few ‘radical’ ideas (which is not neccessarily my writing cuppa), getting it out there will mean taking a risk which, when you’ve grown up in a city as small as my hometown, and a country as tiny as mine, feels overwhelming.
There will be Opinions. And I’m quite fond of this story.
So, I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’d rather spend an hour of my precious morning writing time on doing this post, than filling in the remainder of the scenes in my novel—due to all of the reasons noted above. I’ve written about two thirds of the main confrontation, and I know where it’s headed, but I need to write the rest. I’ve started the final ‘hard’ scene yesterday, in a moment of irregular plotting clarity, but going through with it means writing one of the hardest things my fave character has ever gone through, and that sucks. The novel is intended to be a first of a new series, and I need to set the layout for the next book, too, and make the readers understand a bit about where the story is going, without making them feel like I’m shoving the next novel down their throats. (I’d like this novel to be readable as a standalone, too, because I really appreciate that as a reader, even in novels which are parts of a series I’m reading through—but I can’t wrap one of the main storylines up in a manner to make that work all the way, and… ungh.)
And now I’ve laid it all out here, faced a few of my fears, deconstructed the shit out of this unease I feel when facing the final part of finishing the first draft of my NaNo 2019 novel, and… well, I’m screwed. Because I have no choice left but to take a deep breath—both in and out, because continuity—and go back down the rabbit hole.
The building’s under siege due to an environmental catastrophe, my MC’s family drama had just begun getting resolved, my main ship needs to face the fact that they would, very much indeed, like to have sex again, and there’s been (gasp!) a second murder.
It’ll all work out in the end. Promise.
Photo by Robert Cause-Baker.