Endings – the First Draft

Writing the ending of a story can be tough. Knowing how the story is going to end is just as tough. There is no clear-cut way to figure how your story is going to end. Maybe you have it all planned out from the start. Maybe you didn’t figure out the ending until halfway through the story. Or maybe, you don’t have any idea how it’s going to end. Sure, there might be ideas floating around in your head but nothing is concrete and that’s okay.

Personally, I don’t usually figure out the ending until I get to the point where I can’t write anymore. Granted, this doesn’t happen to me often. Most often than not, I have some idea of how the novel is going to end.

Now, the good thing about writing the first draft is that nothing has to be perfect. The most important part is that it’s the first draft. This means that there’s going to be many more drafts of the same story. While the concept will stay the same and in some cases it won’t, everything else will change.

For the purpose of this post, I’ll stick with figuring out the ending for the first draft of the story. It’s not a novel just yet because the purpose of the first draft is to simply put the idea down on paper. That way, the idea has finally gotten out of your system and you can focus on writing the actual novel. I would also like to add that this isn’t about writing a satisfied ending.

When writing the ending of the story, what I do is make a list of all the potential ways to resolve the issue/problem/goal that has been the main focus of the story. Making a flow chart of the events leading up to the turning point/climax can be very helpful.

While you might not ever use one or any of those resolutions to the conflict, at least you started thinking about it. The process is to help your brain to think productively and creatively.

Once that list has been formed, try to figure out how to get from point A to point B. What would need to happen for that outcome to occur? It’s good to keep in mind that nothing is concrete. As much as you want the story/ending to be perfect, it won’t be. It’s not meant to be. At least not yet. Start with small steps and then take the bigger steps. Write those multiple endings/solutions and pick one that works . . . for the moment. There’s nothing stopping you from changing it after the first draft.

Even as a last resort, skipping the end is an option too. There is only one story that I skipped the ending. I didn’t necessarily write it out. However, I knew how I wanted the story to end. While this is nitpicking, at least, for me, I knew how it was going to end. It’s what worked for me.

At the end of the day, find what works for you. Every writer is different.

 

Advertisements

Making your Reader Care

“Why should I care about the main character?”

This is a comment I received a few weeks ago on one of my stories. It was for Clan of Ash to be precise. For a while, and even now, the comment still lingers in the back of my head. I’ve read plenty of articles and blogs, over the years, on tips/advice/questions on how to make your readers care. A few of these were:

-Don’t make your character perfect. He/she needs a flaw.

-Make them relatable.

-What does your character want?

-What are the obstacles?

-Is he/she an underdog?

Even then, I never thought that I would be asked that question (why should I care?) It took me by surprised and left me reeling. I’d thought it was clear. But if I really think about it, maybe, I wasn’t as clear as I thought. It was clear to me but not the reader. I set up my main character with an impossible task and he grits his teeth and does because otherwise, they’ll kill him.

One of the most important things I came to realize is, it’s a process. Sure, hooking your readers and making a likable/relatable character at eh beginning is important. However, you have to keep “working” on your character throughout the story. Make your readers worry about them. Make them root for them.

There’s no ‘one way’ to do this. I remember some articles talked about having tension and conflict, twist and turns, in your story helps develop your character. It does and that way, readers see your characters struggle against the odds/ obstacles in order to reach their goal.

The key word is struggle. Nothing in life is ever easy or simple. Characters in stories shouldn’t have it easy. Otherwise, what’s the point of having the story? There would be no story. In essence, that’s what I need to keep in mind. I need to present the problem to the readers and have them “watch” the character try to resolve this problem.

As mentioned above, there’s no clear way to do this. There’s no ‘how-to’ or step-by-step guide. Sometimes, you wing it and try to have it all made sense. Luckily, there are beta readers out there that can point all the stuff you missed.

 

Writing the Muddle

We’ve reached the second week of November which also makes it the second week of NaNoWriMo. So far, I have met my daily writing goals every day. I must admit there were times when I was typing up words just to increase my word count when a few words sufficed. Needless to say, Clan of Blood (the current title) is going to have a lot of edits.

Currently, I have written past any scenes that I had planned out before hand. There are two events that I know I can write next. However, I’m not entirely sure what’s going to happen after those two scenes. A part of me feels like I’m dragging this story out because I’m more focused on the word count than the actual plot. Yet, another part reminds me that there’s still plenty of days and words left to finish writing Clan of Blood.

While writing the entire book is my goal for this NaNoWriMo, I’m not going to force myself on this path. I don’t want to restrict myself on adding anything or skipping over a scene because I’m only focusing on the end – that I need to reach the end of the novel by November 30th.

As I write this, I realize that I’m having trouble writing the middle. Or how I’ve heard it referred to ‘the muddle’.  I find the middle hard to write. Maybe it’s because the plot isn’t quite working or I haven’t planned it out correctly. Or maybe it’s got nothing to do with any of that. I’m having trouble mostly because the ending isn’t clear to me just yet. Granted, I haven’t really thought about it and that should be (and is) the next step for me.

However, I’ve written other novels, and with those, I’ve learned a few tricks. I tend to ask myself. ‘How can I make the characters struggle a bit more?’ I can’t make it too easy because otherwise there wouldn’t be interesting. Life is a struggle even on the page.

I also think about how to raise the tension which also comes hand in hand with conflict. With dynamic characters that have opposite goals and/or contradicting view points, having conflict isn’t that difficult. One person wants to use the amulet to seal a demon portal. The other person wants to use the amulet to remove a curse and the amulet only has one usage.

The middle could also be used to add subplots, include obstacles, etc. The one thing that I tend to keep in mind is how to get to the end. I want the scenes in the book to matter. They have to all lead to the end. Even though they may twist and turn, everything must count because what’s the use of adding something if it doesn’t play into the story? Every scene has to move the story forward. Otherwise, the story stops and it doesn’t go anywhere. I like to avoid that at all cost. If I’m not interested in writing and it gets boring for me then why would my readers want to read it? At least, that’s what I think.

And ultimately, it’s a rough draft. It can be a very rough first draft and that’s okay. Things can be changed later, they can be deleted, other things can be added, that’s the beauty (and horror) of editing. Just write. And worry about everything else later.

 

NaNoWriMo – Skipping Scenes

Day three and 5k words down, 45k to go. For some reason, it’s getting harder and harder to write those 1,600 or so words each day. It probably has to do with the fact that I don’t usually write the same amount of words each day. I guess it doesn’t help that I’m still working on rewriting Crimson Queen through the month of November or that I’m updating my Wattpad story on a weekly basis. I seem to have put too much on my plate. What can I say? I’m an overachiever at times.

I almost want to count my word count of those stories but I won’t. Personally, I think that would be cheating on my part. It’s just this mentality that I have where all 50k words must be part of one story as oppose to other projects. It’s just my way of thinking. For better or worse, I’m going to keep doing this until I can’t anymore.

Today, however, I will say that I was surprised by my story. Let me explain. As I struggled to continue the story from where I stop yesterday, a different and unrelated scene came to my head. It had nothing to do with the main story. I still don’t know if I’ll include it in the final draft but I’m not worried about that. I just knew that my mind wasn’t as exhausted after a long work week as I thought it would be and proved to me that there were still some creative juices up there. I put these creative juices to good use.

Writing a story doesn’t have to be linear. It is okay to skip around or take a break from the main story. When a story becomes painful to write and pulling out air is the next stage, something has to change. I’ve had this happened to me many times. I’ve gotten so stressed out about continuing the story that I don’t give myself a chance to take a deep breath and step back. Today, however, it was different.

For the second half of my daily writing goal, I typed up an emotionally charged scene between my two main characters. My fingers flew across the keyboard and my wrists started to hurt but I didn’t stop. This scene was important to me and my characters. I had to put it on ‘paper’ before I forgot. While the story didn’t progress much, I got to try an extra seven hundred words just for writing an unplanned scene. The words just poured out of me and I didn’t care if it related to the main story or not. I was skipping scenes and that was fine.

If writing unplanned scenes is something that gets me to write and discover my characters and more of my plot then so be it because eventually, those scenes can link together to become a cohesive story.  Some scenes may not be used but at least I wrote something. I gave the writer and creator inside me an opportunity to create and step away from the story that had started to ‘bog’ me down.

It works with writer’s block too. You’re not sure how the story will progress so why not put your characters in another situation, in another scene, and see what happens? It doesn’t even have to be part of the story. Not really. What if they would have done something completely different at the beginning of the story? Where would they be now? How would the rest of the story work out? Not only do you get distance from the current story and give your mind a break, but it might just help get those creative juices flowing again.

You’re still writing. You’re using those characters and world. Nothing has changed. Not really. It almost feels like writing fanfiction. Almost.

In the end, different methods work for different people. One way may work better for one person than another. It’s all a matter of how you write. Will I be using these extra words towards my daily word count? Yes I will.

NaNoWriMo – the Story so Far

Follow my progress on NaNoWriMo this month for tips and advice

We’re day two of NaNoWriMo and so far, I’m on schedule. A couple of times yesterday I found myself wondering if I was describing a library ‘the correct way’. Now, I have no clue what ‘the correct way’ is but that’s what I thought. I had to perfectly describe my main character’s workplace. It didn’t take me long to realize that I needed to stop overthinking those sentences. The point of NaNoWriMo is to write. I haven’t found anywhere that says those 50k words have to be the best words in existence.

When I realized this, I left a comment on the document; ‘take a look at this later’ and kept writing. It was as simple as that even though it felt like the hardest thing I had to do. I have put this into practice before – leaving a comment to myself – in other works and, for some reason, it bugged me that I had to for this one. Maybe I’m overthinking this because I want my novel for NaNoWriMo to be perfect, but I know that deep down, these 50k words aren’t going to be perfect. I know that and it’s still hard to keep that in mind.

The one thing that has been working for me is the notecards that I wrote up to help me figure out my plot and where I want the story to go. I haven’t planned everything out yet and I’ll do that gradually. However, I don’t want to be solely focused on one way of writing this novel. I want to allow the story to take unexpected turns because if everything is predictable and ‘on one path’, it’s not fun to write anymore. I like to discover new things in my story that I didn’t know before. Plus, sometimes, it’s good to make things up as you go along. You never know what might work.

One thing to keep in mind is to let the characters lead the way. It follows along the lines of ‘what would this character do in this situation?’. In the first drafts, my characters aren’t always developed enough but that’s okay for me. I often tend to develop my character during the very first draft. There are instances when, even though a character isn’t developed, I can tell when a character isn’t acting quite right. In my first draft of Clan of Ash (book 1 of the Half-Blood series), I went through this with my main character.

When I rewrote that draft, I had to take out an entire scene because I knew that this wasn’t how my character would act. Did I know that from the start? No. However, I knew that this wasn’t how I wanted my character to be. Once I figured that out, developing her further was easier. I had an idea of what the character isn’t like and from there, I started to figure out her personality.

Nothing is going to be perfect at the start. At least, it won’t for me. I have a process and it works for me because of all the trials and errors I’ve had along the way. Especially for NaNoWriMo. It is trial and error. It’s a way to discover what works and doesn’t work. In the end, I’m doing what I love and I’m having fun. That’s all that matters. Having fun writing.