So, what’s next? – a progress report

desk

My sun-room window overlooks a swamp, which is currently full of leafless trees. They’re dripping with fresh rain that should have come down in the form of three or four inches of fluffy snow. Our little flock of ducks are happily waddling about the yard grubbing, for who knows what, in the muddy ground. I, however, am sitting here, thinking about writing and not actually doing it.

Right now, my current project has progressed to being about 1/2 to 3/4s done with chapter 16 (for context, this is about 72,000 words through the book). The next few chapters charge into territory I haven’t yet covered in any draft. This is partly because the original ‘next chapter’ has been moved off to chapter one of the subsequent book. However, that’s not the main reason it’s uncharted for me. While it’s true I’ve spent countless hours on nit-picky details, various bits of polishing, and improvement in content and craft, I’ve never been this close to the end of a book.

Instead of all of the motivation and excitement I should be feeling, I’m dreading what’s coming next. Shouldn’t I be pleased with my progress? After all, I’ve nearly passed an important milestone in my writing career. For whatever reason, I just can’t mentally bring myself to that place. It’s not that I’m totally lost on what to do next. In fact, what needs to happen is pretty clear, but it’s going to be difficult, and like anything that seems hard, it’s causing me a major procrastination jag.

The ending has to be tidy, exciting, and fill in some open questions, while at the same time building up to the next book. Most importantly, everything needs to come to the inevitable ending that’s not so predictable the reader knew how it was going to end by somewhere in the 4th chapter. I seriously doubt I’m going to have that problem. What I may have trouble with though is making that riveting and inevitable ending plausible.

I suppose the only course of action here is to just get the lead out. Once I get started, the last few chapters shouldn’t really take more than a few weeks to draft up. As always, there’s revision and polishing to clean up any messes, and feedback from those helpful test-readers who have already given me a tremendous amount of help.

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Relentless

The only word that could possibly do justice to today’s weather is relentless. The wind is blowing at about 35mph, and gusting to around sixty, though I’m pretty sure that last night we were breaking toward 80. The Oxford English Dictionary (the thirteen volume version) simply defines this word as Incapable of relenting; pitiless. This is a pretty good description of what’s going on here. It would be cold without the wind, and when it’s cold, the wind seems to have so much more force behind it. The OED also contains this little gem on the word.

1798 Edgeworth Pract. Educ. I. 380 Few things can be more terrific..to the young writer than the voice of relentless criticism.”

I don’t know that I ever feel terrific about criticism, but I certainly appreciate it and find the result of responding to it close to terrific.

A daily fight

Just a single thought tonight. It seems like every day, I trip over something else about writing a novel I hadn’t considered, or somehow sheds light on a problem in a way I couldn’t exactly see before. Sometimes this is nothing but helpful, and I have one of those aha moments where it makes sense and I’m ready to get my hands dirty. Other times however, the new insight feels like a punch to the gut. It has brought to light a problem so big, it requires structural changes to the story or a tremendous amount of thought I hadn’t expected.

I suppose as my head spins from one such revelation, today’s take away has been that writing a novel is not a matter of just stringing together events, people, and description. Sure, these are all part of it, but it’s not the sort of thing that can just be dashed out with the expectation of having something anyone would invest the time to read. I could go on about this, but not tonight. I’m tired. Perhaps more later.