I am so close to the end of my novel that I feel like I should be able to reach out and touch it. I have also just mentally closed down on my writing. After pounding out three to four thousand words a week for the past three months, I’ve now hit a wall.
It has been a long time since I finished a first draft novel. It was some time in 2010, and I don’t remember if this happened. Part of me doesn’t want to finish the novel, because I’ve enjoyed having a project that I have been able to totally immerse myself in. I’ve liked spending time with the characters and in the world and knowing what was waiting for me at the computer each time I sat down.
Another part of me is terrified of stuffing it up.
I have also had a head-cold and lost all the heating in my house as we shiver through the coldest few weeks of the year, but they are excuses, not real reasons to stop. It is late summer in my novel, it is not cold spending time there.
So I will buckle down and do what all writers do when faced with this; force myself to write. If I give myself permission to write as many ends as the novel needs, I’m sure I’ll find the right one eventually. One that will do the rest of the novel justice.
But it is incredible the feeling of loss I’m already getting at the idea of it being over. I’m sure the edit will quickly cure me of that.
I can’t explain the how or why, but when I get a story idea I almost always know the approximate length the story will be. Often it is only a small moment or part of the story that I see, but even then it will feel like a novel, or a short, or a flash.
My feelings probably then dictate how I end up writing the piece, so I can’t entirely put it down to the communal unconsciousness of writing, for example I recently wrote a flash fiction piece (which will be published in Antipodean SF next month) which could easily have been a short story, or even a novel, but it felt like flash so I kept it under 500 words.
Having said that, I repeatedly saw one scene of the novel I’m currently writing, which has turned out to be the opening chapter, but at the time I had no idea what the story would be, how it would end or even who was in it. But I always knew it was going to be a novel.
So I will keep thinking it is the magic of this writing thing. The stories are already out there, they randomly choose a writer to discover them.
The exciting thing is that I can feel another novel tapping at the side of my brain, waiting to step forward. And what do I see; a small parrot darting over the top of a boy. I’m serious, that is what is haunting me. It’s what I know about that moment, about the boy and about the parrot that tells me it is a novel. I love this writing thing.
I started writing the pantser novel; the one with no plan, no real end and only vague plot points for me to aim at. I’m up to chapter 5, the dreaded chapter 5. For me, this is the chapter where a novel normally stalls. This one feels like it is stalling.
I’ve spoken before about how chapter 5 is my insurmountable hill. If I can get past that I can probably write the book. In fact, two of the three novels that I wrote beyond chapter 5 are actually finished. The third is really close to finished.
So what is it about chapter 5 that chills me? I think it is because this is where the novel is really starting to take shape. You feel like you know the characters, you have a pretty good idea about what type of book it is going to be, and you start making your characters go in directions that are going to have massive ramifications on the book.
It is that last point that worries me with this one. It is a true pantser book, I don’t know where it is going and it has most certainly started going somewhere. What if that somewhere is bad, or wrong, or worse; nowhere?
The only thing I can think of to get past this is total immersion. I’m cutting myself off from the outside world this weekend and I’m writing chapter 5 and 6 in one hit. As far as I can see it is my only option. I have to break this chapter 5 curse, and I have to find out where this book is going to end up.
Wish me luck!
Writers are generally broken up into two groups; planners and pantsers. Planners plan out what they are going to write, sometimes in very fine detail, before they get started. Pantsers write by the seat of their pants, discovering the story just a moment before the words fall onto the page.
I always thought I was a pantser, an idea comes to me which is normally made up of the beginning and the end of the story and I have to discover all the bits in between. The only time I ever write a ‘plan’ is when a story idea comes to me and I’m not ready to write it yet. So I’ll note it down in my plans book so that I can come back and look at it years later and go ‘what the hell did I mean by that?’
I have a story growing in my head right now which I’m really enthusiastic about. I can see the first, second and third chapter already. Every time I let myself think about it, more chapters fall into place. Only problem is that I have no idea how it ends. At last count I had seven ‘started’ novels, some with only 3 chapters written, some with many more.
For all those other ‘started’ novels I know exactly how they end, and yet I still haven’t been able to finish them. This novel I’m currently considering has no end at the moment, so I’m terrified if I embark on it that it will just end up being another unfinished novel. But the pull is so great. It is filling my idle thoughts; I’m seeing it like a movie in my head. I want to write it.
I think we all know what is going to happen. I’m going to start it and there is a good chance it will turn my seven into eight unfinished novels. But I guess I’ll find out if I am a true pantser and if somehow my subconscious mind will find an end for it somewhere along the way.