I’m writing the final pages of No River Too Wide. If my outline is correct (and it often isn’t at this stage) I have a dozen or so scenes to work into this final portion of the book to tie up my multiple plot lines. Multiple-Plot-Lines-R-Us, I’m afraid. Always and forever, amen.
In a conversation with Diane Chamberlain here, I talked a little about the way I outline a story. This is a hotly disputed subject among writers which is, in reality, yawn-worthy. You do the plotting up front, or you do it as you go, or you do a little of both. There is no virtue attached. You won’t get a star in your crown, or a publishing contract, or a pat on the back from your readers based on the way you work. If you keep plugging you will get a book, and if you’re careful and tie up loose ends the book will make sense.
Which is a very good thing.
The ritual tying of the loose ends isn’t as easy as it sounds. A novelist has to remember every single plot thread, significant character growth, internal reminiscence and make sure it’s been satisfactorily dealt with by the end of the book. Hopefully we’ve tied up some of these threads along the way so that we don’t have to resort to a long-winded catch-up at the end.
Here are some of the things I always keep in mind as I approach the final goal post.
- Who was a character at the beginning and who is he or she at the end? Did she grow in ways the reader will accept because of events in the story, or did she leapfrog through unknown ponds and forests to become a different person? I call this the “huh?” factor.
- What is the story arc? Does it build toward conclusion with little rest stops along the way? Does it go splat about halfway and never recover? Does it refuse to build until the final exciting chapters which nobody will ever read because everybody fell asleep in chapter six at which time the book slipped to the floor beside their rocking chairs and was never picked up again?
- Is there enough description and sharpening of the senses to make the story come alive? Is there so much description that the story itself was buried under paragraphs filled with glowing adjectives and skillfully wrought metaphors?
- Was something wonderful introduced and given such short shrift that it needs to be removed and saved for another novel?
- Was something boring introduced and given such attention that it needs to be removed and tossed into the nearest body of water?
Just some of the things, as I said, that I look for as I near the end of my story. Anything that slipped by and shouldn’t have will, hopefully, be caught during edits and revisions, mine and my editor’s.
One thing is certain. The end of a book is not the place to let down. It’s not the time to make a move, either. So while I would usually be heading south about now, instead I’m watching the leaves turn and planting my feet in New York until No River Too Wide is completed. This is the time to focus, to pay attention to every word, to skip back and forth between what has already been written and what needs to be. It’s an exciting time, but a crucial one.
I sure do love my job.
Remember, if you comment on any blog between now and November 1st (up to three times) you’ll be entered in the giveaway for one of three packs of the five Emilie Richards books that came out in 2013. Details here.