Endings

Photo on 9-18-14 at 10.11 AMWanted to write about Quiet today. The book & my need for some. Been feeling raw and unsettled and have not yet reached that place where I can claim my quiet, although I am working on it. Progress slow, but being made. I make things out of no-things all the time. Today I made ten pages of a book out of blank white paper. Turned them dark and inky. Sprinkled in a little bit of light.

One of the phrases I loved the most, snatched from my notebook with glee, was useless. It was beautiful and I adored it, but it didn’t fit anywhere. Maybe it still will because I have not finished the book. I’m through the messy middle and I’ve reached everyone’s climax (ahem) but now to bring them to an ending. There’s an easy way to do this. A connect-the-dot way. I use it all the time. Happy ending. Problem solved. Murder avenged.

Now that there have been, much to my surprise, two murders committed on my pages, it would seem that okay, I can just use the endings that conventional romances (Plot A) and mysteries (Plot B) traditionally use. Except. That sly Lily. She was just a teenager in Blue Heaven but now she’s finished college and she’s back in town trying to take over the book. She came creeping into my head this week and demanded to have her own spin-off series. She wants to solve crimes and shoot guns and stuff. I’m telling her to shut up because I don’t know a thing about any of that but she says I’ve written it before. I’m writing it now. And she’s right.

So what does that have to do with this book’s ending?

If Lily is going to have her series, or at least another book, and I think she will, if I can just get some quiet to develop her new storyline, I’m going to have to leave room in this book for loose ends. I’m gonna have to break some hearts and leave them unmended. I’m going to have to sink blood, bones, and soul into this story’s end.

How do you do that? In “An Anatomy of Endings” David Chase suggests that instead of my typical “closer” type ending where loose ends are tied, and relationships restored, I might go with a “clincher” that “surprises by tying story strings together in an unexpected way or throwing a new, ironic light on the whole recent past.” Yeah, ironic. Lily can do that. I can do that.

Or can I? Chase lists all the ways a “clincher” can fail: the cop out, the let down, the tie up, the wrap up, the aha, the huh? are all filled with pencil-type peril. I do know this: I’ll try anything once. I have never been afraid to take the leap. It’s just a book. There’s always revision. Which basically means I’ll try anything twice. Or even three times.

The next question is: will Lily’s landing be soft or hard? I think right now it’s gotta be hard, even though everything inside me longs for strong soft & quiet.

An Idea Knocks

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This is for Sharon, a wonderful writing friend from way back in the e-zine 50-something days:) Her question was: How do you know where to start a story?

This is one of the reasons it’s easier to be a writer than a knitter. In knitting, if you miss a row, it has to be unraveled immediately. In the first draft of a novel, all you need is the slightest whiff of an idea. You write it down and, if it’s a book, ideas and words accumulate. I freewrite first drafts with no plan or plot in mind until something comes to me, like a gift. No unraveling until the first draft is complete in all it’s clumsy awkwardness.

Usually at about 30K or so, I have a real grasp of what I want the book to be, so I print it out and read over what I have. Then I make an outline, which I rarely follow to the letter. Ideas are still coming, much of the time faster than I can write them down. I take notes, reminding me of a scene I must write and the location I want to put it in. At this point I also create a collage incorporating images, patterns, and colors that remind me of the book and its characters. That collage usually goes on a corkboard above my writing desk.

As you see from the picture above, because I recently moved house after 25 years, I saved just a little bit of my last collage: the names of my characters. Since I have a series (Blue Lake) started, I am going to keep my ocean picture and the snapshot of Al & me on our honeymoon with the Pacific Ocean in the background. I plan to create my next collage on Pinterest. If I ever get this WIP finished.

In revision, my beginning is usually cut. That’s how it goes. Lots of darlings are killed in revision. But that’s another post. The short answer to your question, Sharon: I don’t decide where to start. An idea knocks and I answer the door.