No, I’m still not finished my WIP.
But honest to goodness, this last novel in my historical fiction trilogy is truly almost done. I know I’ve written about being close before, but now I’m really close. Like, a two-digit number of pages remaining that starts with 2 (or maybe even one!) close.
When last I wrote about my WIP’s impending end, I discussed various insights that had occurred to me as I continued along this process.
Well, a new level of nearness to the end has engendered an all new set of realizations:
1) Plotholes ahoy
The closer a story gets to the end, the more clearly it settles toward its inexorable conclusion, the set-up to which needs to be honest, with all the earlier pieces of the story in their proper place.
It’s for this reason – this final lining up of all the ducks, as it were – that I suspect I’m every other day stumbling over some action or character motivation I didn’t think all the way through, finding myself suddenly wondering, Wait! Why would she do X when Y would be so much easier?
Why besides my needing it so for the sake of the plot, that is?
Thankfully, I’ve so far been able to answer each question in due course, which now gives me hope, despite what I previously wrote, that maybe my story won’t implode at the eleventh hour.
2) What kind of writer am I?
To this day, I’ve never successfully finished a novel-length story, and never has this weighed so heavily upon me than now.
It’s actually a rather remarkable failing on my part given I’ve been writing seriously since 2000. Not counting the six years I quit between 2006 and 2012, that still leaves me almost ten years to have completed something.
But I haven’t, at least by my reckoning. I don’t count the first installment of this trilogy because, even though it’s novel-length, the overall story isn’t complete. Plus I now realize I ended that installment too soon for it to satisfactorily stand on its own.
I definitely don’t count the second installment of the trilogy, for that one didn’t end at all. It just grew to the length of two novels (nearly 600 pages) and as yet has an undetermined dividing line between it and the third installment.
Meanwhile, I didn’t even sort of finish my very first novel – a fantasy I started writing back in 2001 – which was so fatally flawed (it essentially did self-destruct at the eleventh hour), I quit it exactly one page and one chapter from the planned end.
So in a lot of ways, the outcome of this story will make or break how I think of myself as a writer moving forward.
3) Screw you, Universe
I’ve heard it said that whenever people set out to do something new, the universe often tests the strength of their resolve.
I originally planned to finish my WIP by the end of April in solidarity with a friend who had to sit a major exam for work at that time.
Well, my friend’s done passed the exam, her job is secure, and she’s enjoying live again.
I, on the other hand, was forced to move house to avoid an impending renoviction – a process whose many time-consuming steps swallowed more than a month of my writing time.
Add to that an uptick in late nights at work, a pro-d work opportunity involving travel, and the overall loss of creative muscle tone I suffer from breaks in my writing work(out) schedule and I’m desperate to finish this book before the next big distraction rears its head.
4) Driven to distraction
Normally, I can quarantine my writing life from my non-writing life quite effectively, but the closer I get to my WIP’s end, writing’s become pretty much all I can concentrate on, to the detriment of … well, every other thing that I do.
Thoughts of writing are infecting my work, my sleep, my daily transit (I arrive at places with no recollection of the journey to get there), even my prided ability to learn new routines in my dance fitness class faster than everyone else, leaving me most days in a complete and utter daze.
Which, combined with my general disorientation from having just moved – I’m constantly bumping into things, leaving drawers open, leaving lights on, and misplacing things since I’ve not yet developed an autopilot for moving through the space – has me feeling like I’m slowly losing my mind.
5) Leaving a tidy slate
The nearer I get to the end and the more fitful my progress towards it, the more important it becomes for me to write every remaining thought as thoroughly as I’m able.
Writer friends have suggested I not worry about the various plot questions right now, instead just writing the very last scene and filling in what’s missing during revision.
However, I want to give myself something substantial to work when I finally start revising.
I’m trying to conclude my WIP with a strong emotional impact. So right now – while I’m eating, breathing, and sleeping this story – is surely the best opportunity to capture the full essence of what I’m trying to say.
No doubt time and distance from the work will later help me refine and revise that message. But I really do feel that if I don’t lay a solid groundwork now, I may lose the ability to do so, and forever be stuck with a watered-down version of what I really meant.
One positive thing I do have to report is that my nightly word counts (such as they are; they’ve never been my most boast-worthy asset as a writer) have noticeably increased, on some nights even coming close to doubling.
So I do believe I can finish this work, and soon (I have another trip coming up, so it needs to be soon), and that the next time I blog specifically about my WIP will be to report I’ve finally reached the E-N-D.
What kinds of experiences have you had nearing the completion of a long-term project? Tell me about it in the comments.