I find myself 95,000 words into my current work in progress (and hopefully my one of my first published books if I figure out this complex death trap known as editing) and I still have no end in sight. I get that I’m writing fantasy and typically bigger is better. Especially in the case of edits. Even if I pump out a monstrosity in my first draft, it’s likely to change a great deal in subsequent drafts. That said, I know the ending, but it just feels out of reach. Taunting me. Screw you ending!
So how to do it. How to get to the end? Here are some ideas I’m thinking may help me. Notice I didn’t say “these are some tips that helped me get to the end.” These aren’t tips. These are my arms flailing wildly hoping to grasp on to something so I don’t plummet into an endless ravine.
1. No more characters, damnit!
I have this problem with adding more characters when I get slowed down or lose some excitement in my manuscripts. Even when I have no intention of adding another character and I have my cast pretty well set, some assface wanders into scene and says, “Hello, I’m going to be in your novel now.” I politely ask him to leave, but he just sits down and starts eating all my food and lounging on my couch. He won’t leave.
My solution? You don’t get a name. That’s right. Go ahead and wander in, but you’ll be “Guard #3” or “Assface #21.” This helps me avoid investing greatly in a character. You know the old saying: “Once you name it you have to get it a sub-plot.” Wait, that’s not it.
2. Go ahead and write the ending.
Ugh. I understand some people like this, but I’m a very linear writer. I don’t tend to like to skip ahead if I can help it, but maybe it’s my best option? I mean if I already know what’s going to happen, why not? I actually did this recently with a chapter I was stuck on for like a week and I just said, “You know what, chapter? You’re in time-out!” And I put it in the corner with no lunch or snack time. I’m sure Chapter 19 really hated that, but I did it anyway.
That said, I’m sure I could go ahead and write my blood-soaked, chaotic ending and get it out of my system. Then the rest of the pieces might fall in place better.
3. Wrap up those loose ends.
I tend to have a pretty large cast that joins and leaves depending on what’s happening. Maybe this is sort of hangover from when I watched Hercules and Xena as a kid. I always liked revolving door allies. Meaning I don’t like to make my group swell to unmanageable levels. I like for characters to follow their own paths and reunite with my MC when the time is right. This causes me to have lots of loose ends. I don’t want readers saying, “Well, what the hell happened to her?” My answer can’t be, “Well, she went off to join the circus, became an alcoholic, and got lost at sea on a were-dolphin’s pirate ship.”
The sooner I tie up the loose ends with various characters, the sooner this can end. This may mean in rewrites I may have to just cut characters altogether, have them die, or make their point in the story important for certain scenes and then let them be on their merry way.
4. Have a goal.
Some may not like this, as they think the novel is over when it’s over. But sometimes I like to have a word count or page number goal to aim towards. Then once I reach that word count, I know, “OK, time to bring this to a close.” That count is usually between 100,000 and 130,000. Anymore than that, and I start to sweat. Not because I’m worried it’s too long or whatever, but just because I start thinking, “How in the hell will I ever eat this beast?” Of course that’s something I just have to become accustomed to doing. While I know this method doesn’t work for a lot of people, this is something I personally prefer to give me a light at the end of the tunnel. I also give myself deadlines. I already missed one in December and I may likely miss another one in January. Three strikes and I’m out though (which means I’ll ground myself from Xbox or something).
So those are some methods I think may help me get to the end of my novel. Not sure if they’d work for everyone, but I hope these will work for me. What helps you get to the end of your novels? Share in the comments!
And remember, all fantasy, all the time!