I did it. I finished the first draft of what was supposed to be a series of stories but turned into a novel. I. Finished. It. Now I feel like celebrating for a week. Or make that a month while the draft matures because I can’t wait to get my hands on it and edit the crap out of it. But I digress. It’s endings I meant to write about, not editings. So, endings.
I’ve heard there are people — disciplined, organised people — who have the semi-divine capability of planning their work in such detail that the actual draft-writing process is more of a gap-filling, scene-expansion job than anything else. They know what the ending would be and how it would look, and, I suppose, they have much lower stress levels because of it.
I’ve also heard there are people who — this is so fascinating! — start planning their books from the end backwards. I love this idea and I think I’ll try it some day. Again, this approach saves so much trouble thinking about the bloody ending. It probably brings to the table similar problems with the beginning, I guess, but the ending is clear, at least. The story feels complete.
In case I haven’t been blunt enough about it: I hate the endings. Well, not the endings as such but I do hate writing them. This draft I completed this morning is, as far as story, plot, and number of words are concerned, my third book. That’s three times I’ve been through the purgatory of Coming Up with a Decent Ending without losing all my marbles.
With The Lamiastriga, I spent at least a year, cumulatively, trying out different endings for size and finding with frustration none of them fitted. I had to rewrite the thing twice to come up with an ending that was a) dramatic enough and b) plausible. Twice! Yesterday I found an old notebook where I’d made notes about the earliest notes that later turned into The Lamiastriga. There were characters and scenes I’d completely forgotten about. Ah, the good old times when it was characters and scenes, and not endings.
With Eleven Doors I completely dropped the ball. This is the sequel to The Lamiastriga and I haven’t written a word since October 26th, I just checked. The reason I haven’t written a word is that I’m near the end. The story has a couple more scenes and it will be done. However, these scenes will need to be intense, with a lot of things happening because the story just went this way, and I hate when a lot of things are happening because I need to plan a lot.
Also, I’ve convinced myself I first need to go to the place I’ve chosen as a setting for this grand finale so I can be authentic. Which is nonsense because there are more than enough pictures to give me a sense of the atmosphere and I know how the landscape in this part of the country feels because our house is an hour from that place. We just never made the time to go have a look around the tombs last summer. We’ll go next summer. Yeah, tombs, the Big Showdown Scene takes place in a tomb. I need all the authenticity I can get, right? Right? I can’t just, I don’t know, rely on my imagination and a handful of pictures, right? This is research and for research purposes Eleven Doorsis on hold.
With The Dansk Finanzbar Chronicles (a title I will probably have to change because it no longer really fits with the story, alas) the idea of an ending never crossed my mind. Not at first. At first, it was a story about a man who accidentally made all the children in the city disappear and then brought them back. I’d had this dream about a bridge going into the sea and so on and so forth, and I’d made it into a story. Then I wrote another story, another standalone with the same main character. And another. But the fifth story I’d begun thinking about the thing as a novel, which is when The Ending reared its head.
As you can see from the image above, I got there, eventually. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t quick, which I find particularly unfair: why can’t it be like advertising? Quick and hard or slow and easy, but never quick and easy and, by extrapolation if this is the right word, equally never slow and hard. But no, it had to be both slow and hard.
Endings are like a wall at the end of a road. I’ve walked the road, I’ve enjoyed the scenery, I’ve got a couple of surprises along the way and now I want to get to the end of the road and have a bit of a rest before the next one opens up. And here’s this wall: not too high and not too long but impossible to jump over or go around because, of course, it’s a magic wall. And it has a door. And the door has a handle. And I know how to turn a handle — the door is not locked — but I suddenly feel so tired and confused by everything I’ve seen down this road I just can’t bring myself to make that last step, raise my hand, place it on the handle and turn the damn thing.
I’ve found I need some time to let the self-loathing accumulate to a sufficient level to spur me into action. When I can’t take the stalling any longer, when I am really appalled by my state of inaction knowing that I know how the book ends, I do what I did today: switch the computer on, make coffee (I decided to ritualise end-writing, so coffee instead of usual tea), sit down, open the file and that file only, forget emails and Twitter exist, and finish the story. Which, as you can see, I did. It may change in future drafts, this bland, cliff-hanger ending, but at least I have it. I have an ending. It’s definitely better than a story hanging loose in space, endingless.