Thursday, November 14, 2019

Finish the Book!

For the past several weeks I have been working on finishing a non-fiction book with a writing partner while also working on several fiction projects.  Finally my sister (who is perhaps my best and worst critic) asked me directly, "When are you ever going to finish something?"

Excellent question. It got me to thinking, why is it so hard to finish a project? That was never an
issue in the past. Of course, when you just got two new cats who seem to demand constant attention, it can be harder than you might think. Last week one of them stretched out on the keyboard of my computer and refused to budge. Okay, they should be easy to lift, but then they start to squirm and suddenly everything you've typed into the keyboard disappears with the step of one soft little paw!

This week she wrapped herself up in a curtain cord and had to be rescued from her hanging position.

Why did it used to be so easy?  Well, of course it wasn't, but when you work as a daily television news producer or executive producer, your work has to be finished every day. For years I knew that my deadline was 4pm, 5pm or 11pm. My broadcast was going on the air with or without me. I had to make certain it was with me. I had to have everything ready to go for that next hour or half hour or there would be dead air. There could never be dead air so I had to produce something! Of course I had lots of people working with me, but they had that same deadline. Together we all had to have our stories written, our work done or it wasn't going to get seen.

Writing a book is a whole different animal, and I'm not talking cats now, but the end result is the same. If I don't finish a book, it is never going to be read. I can re-read and re-edit over and over, but my readers are never going to see my work. Just like my sister, they may be asking when will you finish the book?

As writers we all need to keep that in mind. Our work will not be seen until it is finished. I've worked with critique partners who wanted to keep perfecting things but in the end they simply took the vibrancy out of the story.  Sooner or later there has to be an ending.

How do you decide your are getting there?

1. Look back at your story. What was the original goal of the main characters? Have they met it or have you just been meandering and not bothered to keep building the tension toward getting to that final goal.

2. Look at your characters. Have they been learning? Have they been growing? Are they about ready to tackle that final issue to get their happy (or unhappy) ending?

 If you've just been going around in plot circles, it may be about time to start looking for how you are going to finish the story.

3. Study your opening pages. What did you set out to do in the beginning? Have you taken the proper steps toward getting there? Maybe you veered off in the wrong direction some place and all it will take is coming back to the original premise to get your characters back on the right track.

4. Read over the middle part of your book. Are all the scenes necessary? Are there some that need to be beefed up to get toward your ending? Are there some that you put in thinking you wanted to go in a certain direction and then never went there. Get rid of them!

5. Have you put in too much backstory? Is the middle of the book so heavy simply because you kept explaining issues that didn't need to be in the book?

6. Finally, look again at how you want to end the story. Did you have an idea of how you wanted it to end or was it too vague?  If you were never quite sure, maybe it's time to decide that definitive ending then start taking those steps to get there.

7. If you're working on a sequel, as I am on the moment -- working on the second part of my Dead Man series, re-read parts of the first book to get an idea for why you wanted to write a series in the first place. Get to know the characters and situations again to make certain you're heading in the right direction.

It's like taking a long walk. You can look up or down the hill and decide at the beginning whether you want to take the longer version and see all the sights or the shorter version that might leave you breathless. Which direciton do you want to take? Decide and then start aiming for it. Wandering all the paths along the way is only going to get you lost and tired.

8. Finally, make your decision on the ending and then and head for it! Make it direct and push forward until you get there.  (and hope you don't run into cats stuck in a new predicament along the way)

Now it's back to work to finish my next book. If you would like to check out the first part in the series, Dead Man's Rules is available at Amazon.

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