A Very Happy New Year To You!
Well, I set myself a target of finishing my first draft of my second novel, After Black, to be before Christmas. Due to family commitments which I discussed in my last post, I had to extend that deadline to the New Year. And on New Year’s day itself I was finally able to type those lovely words ‘The End’. Shake that bottle of champagne, or Asti Martini is just as good. ;>) So a quick recap. This post is a continuation of an ongoing series of posts on what the various stages of writing a novel can be like, the pros and cons, the inner feelings and thoughts. The next one will be what it is like to begin a novel and I have one ready for that to get going with, entitled No Magic Pill. But back to this one. I posted what it was like to be 70% of the way through After Black on April 28th , then The Rock of Sisyphus on August 11th. This would seem to be pretty slow going, wouldn’t it? The only thing I can say to myself in my own defence, because I’m needing to right now!, is that I found my material complex, the research in-depth, and it is a long novel with many characters and a twisting plot, rather than a shortie.
So how was the last 30% of the journey? Well, it included a big dramatic climax at the end of Part 2, and a smaller dramatic climax in Part 3, along with the unfolding repercussions and denouement where plot arcs reach resolutions and characters go through the final stages of their individual journeys. A lot to handle. And predictably enough it got tougher and tougher to get my rock up the mountain. It required dogged determination and I had to give the novel my sole focus and put aside any other writing ‘distractions’. The amount of writing I did in one session became less and less. I wanted to maintain authenticity, to make sure my characters were in harmony with what I felt they needed to do and to tell me if I was getting it wrong, as well as consider the reader’s needs and expectations. Endings are so vital to a story. They can make or break a whole narrative, so getting them to work and somehow be ‘just right’ is scary. And of course writing advice abounds to help or hinder.
Here is what I tried to consider concerning the ending from tips I’ve picked up along the way that resonated with me:
1.The sense of the end somehow mirroring the beginning, with a feeling of circularity, not going backwards, but forwards for the main character, with all those inner and outer changes that have occurred to give a feeling of looking to and entering a future. So for example, I took my main character, Janet, back to looking through a kitchen window, like she does in chapter one – but, it’s a different window because her life has moved on. This scene was placed in the penultimate paragraph as I wanted to end the novel with action and dialogue rather than inner musings.
2. Harness the reader’s imagination through the use of some of the following:
A strong visual or sensory image
A symbolic motif repeated from near the beginning to highlight how things have changed (eg I used a poinsettia plant that my character had been given for Christmas both at the beginning and end of the novel)
A sense of forward motion
An action begun
A new start
A sense of possibility
3. Make sure you have taken care of the significant secondary characters in the sense of having given them a pleasing or fitting story arc too. If they are important to the story of the main character, then they are sure to be important to the reader. And of course you need to tie up any loose threads.
4. The final image at the very end should be chosen wisely. You need to decide what you want the very last impression and feeling to be. It functions as a kind of preview of life for the main character from here on in, after all they’ve been through. And this can take much thought, but is so worthwhile. It’s a powerful thing the writer is doing here, and yet at the same time a great responsibility. It’s giving a continuation beyond the scope of the novel in the imagination of the reader which you hope will linger with them for quite some time. This final image is the beginning of a whole new story!
5. Get the tone right. Decide whether it should be sad, happy, thoughtful, funny, have a sense of hope or promise…Hopefully what you decide will resonate with the tone of the book as a whole. So I went for promise, which echoes the beginning, but what a vastly different and expanded kind of promise it turns out to be.
The pros of getting to the finishing line are:
You will feel so much lighter! You’ve done it! You’ve burst through that red ribbon and won your own race, even if that race was being done by a turtle who just kept plodding slowly along the road, or a man cursed to roll a rock up a mountain.
Now you have a product you can really work with. You can edit it a few times, you can proofread it and you can prepare it for marketing. You can’t edit or market a nearly finished novel. So this is a big deal.
You can leave it to rest while you move on to new writing pastures, new projects, new passions. And maybe this is what you’ve been waiting for – to move on, because we have so much more to give and express than we can ever hope to achieve in one lifetime.
Cons of getting to the finishing line are:
The only one in the race was you. There’s no one to cheer you for getting to the end. You have to cheer yourself. The only people who are truly going to understand what it’s like are other writers or creatives. They won’t ask questions like these:
Right, okay. When is it going to be published?
How long did it take you? (and when you tell them, they say ‘Jeez!’)
Yeah, but it’s only a first draft.
So be careful who you tell is the take home point here…unless you want your bubble bursting…
To close, I hope you all have your new diaries sorted and projects to carry you through a creative 2019 and are all set to look after your mind, body and spirit along the way.
Cheers, all :>)