Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Going Around the Block

For days—yes, even for weeks—my ending has eluded me.

It all started back at chapter eight of my current work-in-progress. Everything wass moving along, not extremely fast, but at a consistent pace. Then my characters decided they wanted to take a left turn.

A left turn?! But they are supposed to go right. I fuss and fume at them. I complain how that would mess everything up. I try to persuade them that such a decision would only complicate their lives. Then when that fails, I consider exercising the authority of an author to make them turn right. But in the end, I know it is best to let them have their way, even though it is uncomfortable for me. They go to the left.

Now, however, I have an extra problem and no idea how to resolve it. How can I weave this loose end satisfactorily into my ending?

No brilliant solutions present themselves. So I plod forward, hoping the answer will reveal itself along the way. Thus I start this week—except now I’m within two chapters of confronting that problem.

My progress slows to a crawl. Extraneous words stretch across the pages as I try to avoid the inevitable. I fall asleep at night playing with possibilities, only to wake up and reject them all in the morning. Brainstorm sessions are improvised. I retrace my plot’s path and re-examine my character’s motives and personalities, good guys and villains alike, searching for a key—any key—that might unlock the secret to the ending. Three separate endings are designed and discarded because my gut instincts say they don’t work, don’t fit, don’t make sense.


Then last night it clicks. I know what must happen. I find the piece that interlocks everything, including the extra tangent—and it is the ending I toyed with at the very beginning, when I first started planning this novel but threw away as impossible after I started the first draft.

Once again I have traveled a great distance—only to end three paces behind where I started.

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