What’s the hardest part of a book to write? Not the beginning, because what writer isn’t full of enthusiasm at the onset of a project? Sometimes that opening sentence is what launches the whole thing in an author’s mind. Call me Ishmael. Chapter One: I am Born. For years I couldn’t remember what happened to me that night.*
The middle chapters are almost always a hard slog, it’s true. They don’t call a problem with this section “the sagging middle” for nothing. Keeping up the pace, making sure you don’t lose all of your subplots in a swamp of details, enforcing consistency in your characters, all take discipline and drive.
But the proof of any novel’s pudding is at the end, when all the plot threads must tie themselves up in neat little bows, the bad guy must get his or her just deserts, and your hero and heroine must have resolved all their internal and external conflicts so they can enjoy their happily ever after. Aarggh!
Of course, the myth is that plotters and pantsers approach this moment of truth in completely different ways. Plotters, it is assumed, have it all figured out from the beginning. It’s there in the outline! This happens, then this, then, ta-da! Ends tied, bad guy dead, HEA.
Pantsers, supposedly, just write until things work themselves out. If they hit a wall, they write around it, or over it, or under it. Intuition working overtime, pantsers find solutions to whatever problems present themselves as they come up, though maybe that doesn’t happen right away. (I hope not, anyway, or I would be much more jealous of these folks than I already am!)
But, surprise! Hardly anyone is exclusively a plotter or a pantser. And the Muse is fond of throwing all sorts of obstacles in our path as we work our way through a story. Unexpected plot complications. Demanding characters. Corners, with wet paint on the floor all around. Inconvenient laws of physics that make you want to switch to writing contemporary romance. And, most especially at the end of a novel with any subplots at all, the issue of timing (that is, who is supposed to be where at exactly what day and time).
As a plotter, you might think I’d have fewer problems than some with tying things up at the end of a book. But right now, I’m close to the end of the first draft of Book 4 in my Interstellar Rescue series and, really, I have no idea how to end it. Well, I mean, I know generally what should happen. Minor villain vanquished by the hero/heroine (and, big reveal here, dog—which, I should add, I’d already put in the story before Pets in Space was launched). Major villain(s) vanquished (for now) by the Rescue team from earlier novels (since this is a series). Hero and heroine (and dog) get their HEA. Sexy secondary character set up for his own future book. All good.
But the devil is in the details. I could use a little pantsing skill right about now. Because there comes a time when you just have to sit down at the computer and write something.
And hope it all comes out the way it should. In the end.
*The first line of Unchained Memory, Book 1, Interstellar Rescue series
CONGRATS TO 2017 RITA/GH® FINALISTS!
Well done to the Finalists announced Tuesday, March 21, including SFR Brigade members Janet Halpin (Golden Heart®, Paranormal, for Beryl Blue, Time Cop) and Susan Grant (RITA, Paranormal, for Champion of Baresh)! The nomination for the RITA is especially sweet for Grant, one of the pioneers of SFR in the early 2000s who had been out of the game for several years. She self-published Champion of Baresh, which she calls a “book of my heart.” Good luck to Susan and Janet in Orlando in July!