Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Galloping to, Um, Whatever?

At the finish line! I've been toiling all summer on new novel. It's not the third in the Mary Ryan series (although I do have a kick-ass idea for the third book), but this is something, um, different(?). Husband is heading off to Burning Man to be wild and crazy--the antidote to his being uber responsible and conscientious the other fifty-one weeks of the year--and I'm finishing this goddamn book.

I'm not sure if other writers have the same peaks and valleys when they write, but these are mine. Around the 20,000-word mark I'm far enough into the story to have spent some significant effort and time, and yet I feel a little unsure. For one thing, I've got another at least 60,000 words to go and that feels so unbelievably daunting. Plus, this is where I start to wonder if I can pull this off. I do liken being a writer to being a magician, and at this point, I've gotten no farther in the trick than opening my hands to show that they are empty. This is probably the most dangerous point in the whole process. Yes, I've spent a goodly number of hours at my keyboard, but I could walk away without too much self-flagellation. I had my typical 20,000-word meltdown with this book, but my critique group said, "Oh noes, keep on going!" Which is one (but certainly not the only) reason why I'm in this critique group.

The next critical point is around the 50,000-word mark. This is generally where I feel euphoric. I've worked out most of the bugs and the world is so beautiful! I tend to do that as I write, revisiting chapters over and over again, so by 50,000 words it's a very solid 50,000 words. Plus, there's only about 25,000-30,000 words to go. Right?

Right, and oh on my god, there are the most painful and awful words. Because this is the point in any book where I have to produce the rabbit out of the hat. It means wrapping up plot points, making sure that *I've* made sure that the novel up to this point is going to serve my ending, and that the entire frigging book makes sense.

I've read many books where the last third is the most deadly. Where a writer has had a fantastic idea and served it well but couldn't quite pull it off, and in the last 30,000 words the entire concept falls apart (and yes, Nick Hornby, I'm looking at you and "Juliet, Naked" and the last book in the Harry Potter series). The rabbit has to appear. And this is where the magic metaphor ends because generally a writer can do all sorts of wonderful things to make you fall in love with a book, but if the end doesn't work, then you've failed as an author. It's like a getting the most fantastic meal and being served a boiled shoe for dessert. No amount of verbal pyrotechnics are going to save you. The ending must work, and while you can often band-aid problems in a book with a great ending, if you have a great book but a lousy ending, then you've lost the reader. IMO.

So we are on the home stretch. I've got maybe another 5,000 words to crank out, assuming that critique group doesn't absolutely loathe the chapters I'm going to submit tomorrow night. Then the first draft is done. And then it's to my agent for vetting and her esteemed opinion.

Then we see.

No comments: