Tag Archives: endings

Permission to Fail: Granted

FailStar

This is a red F, in crayon, that I have awarded a gold star. Yay, failure.

A draft of my second book is due in a few days, but it’s not finished.  The reason it’s not finished is that I don’t want to write the end, and the reasons I don’t want to write the end are these:

1. I want to write a satisfying ending, but there can only be a truly satisfying ending when the structure of the plot is sound enough to usher the story to an equally sound conclusion.

1b. Therefore, if I write the ending and it isn’t fully satisfying, I’ll have proof that the plot isn’t fully cooked;

1c. Which means I’ll have to do rewrites.

2. If I write the ending, the draft will be finished.

2b. As soon as the draft is finished, it’s due to my editor.

2c. My editor really likes my first book.  What if I give her the second one, and she thinks it’s a total letdown?  What if, as an author – which is something I’ve worked very hard for a chance to be – I turn out to be a one-book wonder?

There’s only one thing on that list – #1 – that’s actually based in a desire to write well.

All the other reasons are based in fear.  Specifically, the fear of failure.

I’m not unique.  We all fear failure.  And we know that we have to push through that fear if we’re ever going to achieve our goals.  But the human brain has an amazing talent for knowing something and ignoring it at the very same time.  For example, take 1c, above.  I am certain that there will be rewrites.  I have come to expect many rounds of rewrites.  Why am I pretending that I can somehow escape what is inevitable (and important)?

I don’t know.  But I do know that I have to write an ending.  Like, right now.

Today, I gave myself permission to write pure crap.  And by “gave myself permission” what I really mean is that I forced myself to write words even while knowing that they are not my best. I let every hackneyed phrase stay put, I let the gushy mushies take over, I overused adverbs and got spicy with the dialogue tags, I exercised no restraint, and I told rather than showed (gasp and horror, yeah, yeah).  I reminded myself that my editor is a professional who has seen first drafts before and will not damn me for mine.

(I also reminded myself that I still have a couple of days, so if I finish now, I’ll have a tiny window of time to do a little tweaking before I send it in.)

The result of giving myself this permission is that I’m finally closing in on the end of this draft, which is exactly what I need to be doing right now.  What I’m generating does not thrill me yet, but that’s okay. It doesn’t feel okay, but it actually is okay.  It’s even necessary.  If I want to write something good, then I have to write something.

While I’m on a roll, I think I’ll also give myself permission to fail in writing a decent conclusion to this post, because you know what?  I really want to get back to writing my crappy ending.

 

HiRes_Morrison_6861_cropMegan Morrison is the author of GROUNDED: A TALE OF RAPUNZEL, due out summer 2015 from Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic. GROUNDED is the first book in the Tyme Series, co-created with Ruth Virkus. You can follow Megan on her blog at makingtyme.blogspot.com or on Twitter at @megtyme. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

 

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Filed under Anxiety, Deadlines, Writing

Writing Is Hard

I wouldn’t call myself a “novelist.” It’s one of those words of which I have an irrational dislike. I picture novelists sitting around in damask lounges where I’m not allowed, smoking tiny cigarettes, wobbling their big brains at each other and speaking about Humanity without separating their teeth.

But I have written 4 novels so far, which is about 3 3/4 more than most people, and considerably fewer than Terry Pratchett.

Pratchett

Unless you’re Stephen Hawking, this man is smarter than both of us put together.

Anyway, the way you write a novel is you think of a character and then you have your character do something, usually while whining about it, for about three hundred pages. If you want to write a young adult novel, which is what I do, you do the same thing, except . . . well, you just kind of do the same thing. I don’t know.

The thing is, what many critically-acclaimed novels have in common is that they “make sense.” This is where I usually have trouble. Oh, things start well. They hum along. And then I reach the 3/4 mark, and something is wrong. Let me explain it using word puzzles.

I enjoy word puzzles. I get those variety packs with all the different kinds. Here’s one I did called “Simon Says.” The idea is you write the phrase they tell you to, and then there are step by step instructions on how to change it a little at a time, and at the end, surprise! There’s a different phrase there!

Here’s the beginning:

puzzle1

So far, so good. Looks like we’re on our way to turning “Spring Training” into “All Star Game,” which is what happened about halfway through. But “All Star Game” was just a little divertissement in the middle. The real finale was to be “World Series,” revealed at Step 18.

Only something went horribly, horribly wrong.

Here is my Step 18:

puzzle2

That’s right. “LDORDWSURIFJ.” This is not a case of “BORLD SERIES.” This is a major issue. Something effed up went down somewhere, and I have no idea what it was. It could be one rogue letter, or an entire step missing, or I could have read one of the directions wrong. Anything. And from that moment, little things began to fall subtly out of place until the snowball effect reached its terrible pinnacle at Step 18.

That’s what happens with novels sometimes. They say if your ending is wrong, it’s not really your ending that’s wrong, and that’s probably true. But the gentle musing over whether a different angle or lighting might make your denoument more effective is completely different from the sickening feeling that arises from getting to the top of your dramatic arc to realize your story is running naked through the woods like a lunatic. At that point, there’s nothing to do but go back and pick everything apart to find the rogue letter that will set it all right again.

And as I quietly weep over my 3/4 novels, my only solace is that, probably, other writers have faced this kind of thing before. And maybe they didn’t even have blogs. Maybe they just had to write whiny little notes on their parchment or whatever: Writing is hard.

shakespeare
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This is an updated version of a post that previously appeared on my blog. I hope you enjoy it anyway.

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, craft~writing, Editing and Revising, Helpful or Otherwise, Plotting, Uncategorized, Writing