A week or so ago, I sat down all revved up to finish the manuscript I've been working on since January. I'm excited about this story--I'm stretching some writing muscles with it, trying out some new things. And like any new endeavor, it's not without some aches and pains. (I went back to the gym for the first time in two months yesterday too--so I know whereof I speak regarding sore muscles.)
But, I've been enjoying, for the most part, this journey. My first novel came to me with a clearly defined final scene. So in writing it I was filling in the arc from A to B, but I always had that final scene pulling me forward. It was comforting. With Unexpected Grace, that final scene has been much more nebulous. I'm telling the story (or is it stories?) through two narrative lines, one in the present (2002-03) and one in the past (1958-1971). Two very different narrators, but they're connected. But, I'd spent lots of time dinking around at the 50,000+ word mark. I didn't want to admit that I was stuck, so I revised the heck out of the first two-thirds of the book. (Yup. 2/3s. I write on the short side. My goal is always to get to 75,000 words.) I wasn't moving forward, though and was getting frustrated. I talked to one of my agent's readers who acts as an editor (God bless her!). We worked through much of my wanderings. But her final piece of advice hit home the hardest. "Finish it. Get to the end." I knew she was right. I needed to finish the damn book before I could start revising and polishing and rearranging. All I'd been doing for a few weeks was, as my husband would say, rearranging the deck chairs on The Titanic. (Not that he'd ever say that to me about my writing.)
So, I told myself, get to the end. I sat down two days after Labor Day to write. I now knew how it was going to end. I was excited about it. I had those final scenes in mind. I just needed to write 20,000 words before I could write the last 5,000. But those 20,000 seemed insurmountable.
That's when I took a flying leap and went right to the end. And it worked. Amazingly well. The ending scenes kept getting longer (that's good) and sharper (even better). I now know what will and what won't work between what came before and what comes last.
So, sometimes, it seems, in writing and in life, it's good to break a few rules, shake things up, get out of the comfort zone. Eat dessert first. Write the end before you've finished the middle.
Now, I need to head back out to the porch (we're having beautiful fall writing weather) and finish things off. I have to kill a character I adore, and I get to help another character figure out some big things about herself.
I love this stuff. All that middle mumbo-jumbo? It doesn't seem so daunting now.