Good Friends, Great Times and Arbitrary Endings.

1451397_10200918995124794_1800856214_nThis weekend, my local RWA chapter, LERA, had our biannual conference. Two of our guests were Jennifer Enderlin, editor for the fabulous Darynda Jones at St. Martins, and NYT Bestselling author Deanna Raybourn. On Friday, Darynda and our two conference organizers, Tammy Baumann and Kari Bovee, made the trip up to Santa Fe. We did lunch and shopping and I got to play tour guide. Such a fun day for me!

You can read more about it, and about what the most difficult part of the story is for me, over at Word Whores today.

Sneaking Up on the End

I’m nearly done with Platinum, my follow-up to Sapphire.

In many ways, this has been a more difficult story to write than Sapphire was. All these years, I’ve heard writers talk about how each new book is a different challenge, some easy, some harder. I suppose that has something to do with art, with the creative process. If it’s not different every time, then we’re likely not growing and challenging ourselves.

And each world, each set of characters brings their own unique set of problems to the mix. It’s as if I’m their therapist. They walk into my office, dump their issues on my desk and stand back, waiting for me to sort it out for them. No one’s path is the same.

A writer friend recently told me she can knock out a novella in two to three weeks. I admit I felt a surge of envy at the remark. Theoretically, I could, too. A novella is around 26,000 to 40,000 words. At 1,500 words per day, you could hit 31,500 words in three weeks. Totally doable. And, when I started Platinum on February 1, I thought I would have it done in a month. I was totally on track to do that, when I inexplicably slowed to a crawl around the end of the third act. I figure this novella will come out around 34,000 words, and I hit a snag around 26K.

Not writer’s block – I was still writing. But the scene wasn’t right. I wrote past it and circled back. Something was wrong. Something missing or not following the correct path. My characters refused to march politely to their happily-ever-after, even though I know how they get there. I had to sneak around them, change the interactions, find exactly what needed to happen so they can see their way past the thorny problems.

What’s funny is, this happened with The Middle Princess, too. And not with any stories I’ve written before this. So I don’t know if this is my new thing or what. Regardless, it’s clear that I need to add extra time onto the end of my estimates, for the big ending slow-down.

Now I know why therapists like to just give their patients Lithium  and call it good.

Would be so much easier.

Finding the End

Full moon rising the other night. Just a bit of nostalgia.

I’m catching up a bit here, on photos and topics, both.

The other day (see?) I had an interesting Twitter conversation with the charming Abby Mumford. She announced to Twitter at large that she believed was done writing her novel. Then she asked how she should know if she was really done.

This might seem like a silly question. Duh – you’re done when the story is over. Thing is, when you’re writing, you don’t always know when the story is over. In fact, if you’re like most writers, the story doesn’t really end at all for you. You have this sense of the ongoing thread of your characters’ lives. Perhaps this crisis is over, but it’s not like they all fall over dead at the end, not unless you’re writing a Shakespeare tragedy.

(Even with those, the role-call of deaths in the final act begins to feel a bit contrived. Really, Will? EVERYONE??)

So, I told her that, if she’d tied up all her threads, then she was done. Even a thread that continues into the future needs a nice little knot at the end of a particular story. She thought they were, but she was feeling still unfinished. I finally suggested that she type “The End” if it made her feel better.

She did and it did.

This might seem like a false resolution, but endings, especially on first drafts, are moving targets. By the time you go back through the whole novel, cut, amplify, eliminate, massage and tighten, then ending might have moved by 45 degrees. Which is necessary, sometimes. I’ve heard that  John Irving never starts a book until he knows the last line. But I also know, from reading about his process, that he revises over and over, getting to that ending.

For me, each book is different. Usually I have to write to find out how it all ends. With Middle Princess, I’ve had a pretty good idea how it ends, but I’ve been sneaking up on that ending for days now. In the past, when I’ve gotten close to the end, the words flow in a great, ultimate rush. Not so this time. I keep telling myself it doesn’t have to be perfect, that I’ll likely change it in revision. Still, it only feeds at a measured pace. I’m tying up the knots, one by one.

Soon, I know, I’ll be done.

Moonset at Sunrise

The moon has been so bright the last few nights that it shines in our west-facing bedroom like a spotlight.

Every night, the moon rises one hour later. So the time the moon shines in our window has gotten progressively later. The last few nights, we’ve awakened when the moon hit the window at just after midnight, then 1:30 and so on. Last night I woke up at 3:45 and got up to pee, which is fairly usual for me. When I came back to bed, David was sitting on the side of the bed, which is very unusual. He gave me a bright-eyed look and said “time to get up?”

Um no, I told him. I realized the room was so bright from the moon it could look like sunrise. It’s not even four o’clock yet.

Oh good, he says, lays down and promptly goes back to sleep. If he was ever really awake at all.

I was awake for a while, watching the mooon shine in. I inherited the family gene for fretting in the middle of the night. Fortunately I don’t do it often, or for very long.

Having the moon there comforted me.

When we got up to the alarm call at six, the moon still hung there, just setting as the sun rose.

Soon it was gone and the day belonged entirely to the sun.