Monday, May 18, 2015

13 Week Novel—Week 12: Thinking about the End

It may seem pre-mature to start thinking about the resolution of your novel when you have just been writing 2500 words a weekyou're barely over 100 pages! But with this plan, you've written a crappy first draft in 13 weeks, so you have approximately 32,500 words. It's short; around 130 pages. That's the intent.

When you write a whole story really briefly you have the skeleton to work with in the next drafts. And the drafts that follow. You have something to work with so that you can build a more complex and interesting story, so you can develop the intricacies and explore emotions with greater focus, so you can refine the language and the narrator. In my world of writing, once you finish that crappy draft, you finally have room for the joy of creating a story that is it's own.

Take some time this week to dream big. Image: martinnak15 on Flickr Creative Commons
You just have to untangle the mess you produced in the first draft, this weird fog that your story ventured into. When you write and write and write just to get it done, you can lose track of things. You can tie yourself up in knots. You start to follow what your characters want (and you shouldyou learn a lot in the places they take you) and you wind up down some trail you never expected, or on a roof and choking on smog. It's not what you thought it was going to be when you started. What do you do with that?

Hey, the first draft is discovery. If it's a big sloppy mess, you have the opportunity to find a soul in there.

Think of this: plots are limited. A novel can have a great plot, but if you don't care about the characters or if you aren't engaged by the storytelling, then you put the book down. Have you ever pulled up a movie on Netflix that had all sorts of drama, plot twists and turns, and you got up and walked out of the room halfway through? I did that on Friday night. I went and made a salad. My friend fell asleep on the sofa. The next day, when we were trying to figure out what to watch, I mentioned that the movie last night was bland. "So nothing happened?" he said.

Actually, a lot had happened. They broke out of prison, abandoned one of their crew, got involved in some sort of organized crime. Somebody slept with somebody else. Somebody killed a few people. Someone turned on someone else. A few people fell in love and got double-crossed and one lost a leg. Dogs took over and zombies ate the dogs. Alright, the last three things didn't happen (as far as I know), but I didn't finish watching and I didn't care enough to know.

The next time, we watched a Terry Gilliam movie that didn't really make sense, but my friend stayed awake (he never stays awake during movies... his girlfriend will attest to this) and I really wanted popcornbut I couldn't leave my seat long enough to make it. It was interesting and I cared about what the misanthropic protagonist chose to doeven if the overarching logic of the plot wasn't fully thought-out.

Not that I want novels with weak plots, but some readers put less emphasis on plot when they read. It's really what you do with all the elements surrounding the plot that makes the novel unique.

So this week, since you're almost there, I'm going to ask you to think about the end of your novel. This really means that I'm going to ask you to think of the effect of your novel.

It also means that I am going to ask you to stop and breathe deeply. I'm going to ask you to step away from the single-minded endeavor of getting to the end and taking time to dream of the result.

I am going to ask you to remind yourself that your novel has the potential to be great. You are not a slave to it. You are the creator. Summon your power.

Then ask yourself:
  • When readers finish your novel, what is the one big feeling you expect them to have at the end? What single scene provokes that feeling the most? What can you do to this scene to push this feeling further?
  • What makes a novel successful, or even classic? (Write your answer down. Make a list.) Now take a look at your novel and ask yourself what you can do to bring the items on the list out in your book.
  • Think about the genre or form that you are writing in: What makes novels in this genre uninteresting, predictable, or derivative? Write a list of those elements. Then think about your novel and honestly assess it for the elements on your list. What changes can you make that will buck your readers’ assumptions?
  • Lastly, write a review of your amazing novel. What is celebrated?  What is innovative? Surprising? What can you do with these last 20 pages that will ensure that a review like this is written?
You have to believe in your ability to fulfill the telling of this story in the most startling way. It doesn't matter if it's not breaking new ground nowthese are the seeds for that brilliant end. There is something great there. Dig your hole and plant the seeds.

Revel in your greatness a little, then get to work at the first 10 of those last 20 mind-blowing pages. (That's 2500 words to you!)

Coming in a little late? Find out about the 13 week challenge here. And see the first week's activities here.  

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  1. Hmmm, okay. I'm not sure if I'd ever find the time or willingness to write a novel but these ideas sound practical and helpful.

  2. Time only comes with willingness! Thanks for reading, Lux!