Faraway, So Close

As inevitably happens every time, I’m in the final push to finish my next novel and I’m questioning the ending I had in mind.

DAMN IT! Why does this always happen?

Granted, it’s actually a good thing. It makes me really take a hard look at my story and focuses me on creating the best ending possible. But for God’s sakes, it’s annoying.

I know the cause. It’s very obvious. Planning, plan and simple. See, I’m not one of those outliners. I’m a – mostly – fly-by-my-pants writer. I have a beginning in mind, and a pretty good idea of where I want to end up. But everything in between is a mystery. I like it that way. I like the journey of finding out what’s next. Does it mean I sometimes have to backtrack? Sure. But that’s fun to me.

The only time it gets to be a problem is when I approach the end, and realizes the story I’ve written doesn’t match up quite right with the climax I had in mind. And, as I wrote above, I’m at that point right now on book 3.

I really like the story I have to this point. I’ve done a few things differently than I have in the first two Quinn books without sacrificing the Quinn type elements. But now I have to find a way to cap it, to finish it off. I’m on page 375 (times roman, 12 pt), and I usually net out at around 425. But if I continue on, I already know it’s not going to be the best it can be.

I do have a solution to this problem. Something I’ve employed in the past, and will undoubtedly employ again in the future. This week I’ve started my rewriting process. I’ve gone back to the beginning, and I’m tweaking and changing and adding, so that when I reach page 375 again I’ll have a head of steam and a solid idea of how to wrap things up.

It’s just…well…annoying.

Not that I don’t enjoy rewriting. I actually thrive on it. I was just hoping to hit page 425 or thereabouts before I began the process. But I should have known. It’s the same thing that happened to me on THE DECEIVED. It’s the same thing that happened to me on THE CLEANER. And, most likely, the same thing that will happen to me on my next book.

It’s my MO. My character flaw (well, one of many).

I should just embrace it and look forward to the moment I hit that point.

But until I do, I’ll stick with being annoyed.

To outline or not to outline has been talked to death all over the Internet(s). So this is what I want to know: what annoys you about your own writing process?

BONUS INFO: THE CLEANER has been in the top 10 on the Booksellers’ Heatseekers list in the UK for the last three weeks! This, as I understand it, shows the sales ranking of authors who have not appeared in the Top 50 chart since January 1998 (i.e. before the Bookscan figures started.) Thanks to all in the UK who’ve picked up a copy!

10 thoughts on “Faraway, So Close

  1. J.D. Rhoades

    My problem is similar to yours, except that EVERYTHING changes from day to day. Just a few minutes ago, in the shower, I realized that the action I’d outlined a few days ago that was going to carry the book through the next fifteen thousand words or so wasn’t going to work, and I realized how to make it better. So even the sketchy notes I had set out earlier this week are now replaced by new (and, I think better) notes. This is why I hate doing pre-writing proposals and outlines.

  2. Wilfred Bereswill

    I could have written thhis blog, Brett. Except change book 3 to 2 and page 375 to page 275.

    I’m an engineer by degree, a natural to use a structured approach to writing, right? Nope. I work just like you, Brett. I planned a “series of events” that leads to an ending. The last event is the big one, of course and somewhere in getting here, that last event doesn’t hold the luster it held 6 months ago.

    Like you, I’ll work through it and it will be better for it, but I’m not in a good place right now.

    I like your suggestion of starting a rewrite, then plowing through, which is really how I work, chapter to chapter. I finish a chapter and before I move on, I re-read the chapter, making little changes as I go and then keep going.

  3. Pari Noskin Taichert

    I’m a fly-by-the-pants writer with even less information to start than you have, Brett. I start with an idea and a possible killer, maybe I should capitalize that “POSSIBLE.”

    Things always change while writing. But I’m realizing that in order to write more, I’ve got to stop second-guessing myself in the initial write. So with the last manuscript, the one to launch my new series, I wrote the whole thing.

    I just finished the first edit of it and, at this point, I’ve given it to someone I trust in my critique group to see if it hangs together and where she thinks it doesn’t/where he major flaws are.

    Then I’ll send it to my agent — even though it’s not polished — for his comments and will, at the same time, start giving sections to my critique group.

    What all of this is doing is making me less precious about my first drafts. I think it will result in higher productivity, just like working on multiple project already has.

  4. Louise Ure

    Brett, I think you just wrote the blog I was going to write for next week. Book 3. No outline. Page 328 in my case. And the ending is not the big aha! I had in mind.

    Nice to know I’m in good company.

  5. toni mcgee causey

    Well, here I am, opposite girl again. I have always been fine, once I hit that last 100 to 150 page stretch. The last half of act 2 and then zooming into act 3 is generally okay. That’s not to say it doesn’t get edited and smoothed, but the general idea I’ll have for the finale is what I’ve been building to all book long. I don’t know that I could write it without knowing that, because I so entirely suck at writing the beginnings. The first act might as well plunge a knife in my chest. It takes me a while to figure out where I want to start, exactly how to weave the characters and set up to have that first act turning point work, that aha moment of inevitability where everything rushes forward and the story feels compelling and necessary, where the main character’s goal is crisp and clear and the reader will know that, absolutely, they must make these choices, but they’re definitely going to lead to trouble.

    Damnit, I just realized I even wrote this comment in reverse order. ugh.

  6. billie

    I’m in a similar place – editing what was a second draft but weaving in a subplot that I was (am, still) very excited about. But I’ve hit that point where the peak action needs to happen and I’m stymied. Not so much over what comes next, but how to bring it to life w/o going over the top.

    But often, when *I* think I’m going over the top, I’m totally NOT according to readers, so… it becomes a little power struggle with myself. Pushing beyond my comfort zone, which generally means I have to push really hard, then I end up too far, and have to notch back down.

    Somewhere in this ghastly little cul de sac the story clicks in and takes over, if only I I’m willing to stay in the circle long enough.

  7. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Maybe this month is badly aligned for Book Three endings, astrologically speaking. Or something.

    I am struggling with mine, too, more than usually.

    I am sorry to say it helps not a bit to hear that others are in the same boat.

    Oh okay, maybe it helps a LITTLE.

  8. JT Ellison

    You know what’s good, though? We’re starting to see the trends in our writing, and as such can anticipate where the rough spots might be. Mine’s always the beginning, and that’s what invariably gets the most rewrites in the edits.

    Congrats, Mr. Bestseller.

  9. Scott

    I have had the same problem. My first book I mapped out religiously, allowing little nuances to appear within scenes but sticking to the script. For my second, it’s been an exercise in change. Initially, my hero was a black, ex-con seeking redemption. Now, using the same characters and setting, it’s a story about a female HPD detective seeking justice. I have found myself throwing out cherished (in my head) scenes that I *thought* were important. Oddly, though, once I chucked some of these ideas overboard, the story started flowing.


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