Measuring before cutting, metaphorically of course

We’re two days into the new year and I haven’t written anything yet. That’s not a bad thing though. I’m 66k words into my new book and it’s about time for me to start winding it down and bringing it to a nice satisfying end. I’ve mentioned here my profound difficulty with endings so I’ve decided something in my process needed to change if I was going to break this ugly pattern.

 

 I’ve noticed that after I finish a first draft I always end up cutting the last 10-20k words so instead of just randomly trudging ahead and writing blindly, I’m going back and outlining the 300 pages I have so far to get a feel for the story and the plot threads I’ve got dangling out there. When I started this last week I was afraid of what I was going to find. I didn’t think any of it was going to be useful and I knew there were a lot of things dangling out there that I had no clue what to do with. But I was surprised as things progressed.

 

The first 100 pages were very solid. The next 100 were also better than I expected them to be, though there are a few side trips that need to be eliminated. Today and tomorrow I’ll be getting to the last 100 pages and I’m pretty sure most of this is garbage. I may be surprised, but toward the end of the second 100 pages it looked like things were starting to spiral out of control so I’m going to have to bring that all in and get things nice and solid for the climax.

 

 One agent who read my last manuscript and gave me a wonderfully detailed critique said that I had a great talent for twists that spin the plot in new directions. But he also said that somewhere after the halfway point the twists stopped working. He said I need to start collapsing in the twists back on the central story and in that book there was no real central story for things to fall back on. I’m starting to think this book has the same issue so I really want to shore up what’s going on and what’s at stake. I was reading through David Mamet’s book about his adventures in Hollywood and there’s a section where he gives advice on writing a good screenplay, but I took his three questions and I’ll apply them to my manuscript to get the best drama from the situation.

 

  1. What does the character want?
  2. What happens if he doesn’t get it?
  3. Why now?

 

I’m looking forward to getting this all straightened out so I can get back to the writing and get this beast done and sold. How’s everyone else’s writing going this year?