Thursday, November 14, 2013
"No," he repeated, and this time the word tolled in another voice, a kings's voice; not Haggard, but a king whose grief was not for what he did not have, but for what he could not give.
"My lady," he said, "I am a hero. It is a trade, no more, like weaving or brewing, and like them it has its own tricks and knacks and small arts. There are ways of perceiving witches, and knowing of poison streams; there are certain weak spots that all dragons tend to have, and certain riddles that hooded strangers tend to set you. But the true secret in being a hero lies in knowing the order of things. The swineherd cannot already be wed to the princess when he embarks on his adventures, nor can the boy knock on the witch's door when she is already away on vacation. The wicked uncle cannot be found out and foiled before he does something wicked. Things must happen when it is time for them to happen. Quests may not simply be abandoned; prophecies may not be left to rot like unpicked fruit; unicorns may go unrescued for a very long time, but not forever. The happy ending cannot come in the middle of the story."
~ The Last Unicorn, Peter S. Beagle
I tend to go back to my favorite stories for posts like these, simply because the stories themselves answer the question so perfectly there isn't much else for me to add.
For myself, being a panster tends to mean I usually know where I'm going...I just don't know how I'm going to get there. And if often tends to mean I end up re-working a story. Not because I go wandering off on tangents as much as that by the time I get to that end, there's so much more going on than I originally planned for.
So then I need to go fill in the gaps (or weed out the parts that no longer work.) Sometimes that means rewriting the beginning, but not usually. I find beginnings the easiest to write - simply because it's fresh and new and I can pretty much go wherever I want.
The middles? Well that's always the hardest - making sure things line up and make sense. I've often found that the concept I started out with isn't always the one I end up with. Sometimes it's just about adding or removing things, sometimes it's about moving chunks around so they fit better - but I never really know until I've got a draft to play with.
The books I struggle with the most are the ones where I don't know how it is supposed to end - it's happened to me once so far and it was not a particularly pleasant experience. I've tried to be better about it since then and it's been much better all the way around.
With this new book, I know the exact line it will end with. Or I did, until I realized it's going to have to be two books - but the end line will simply move to the end of the second book. I've been asked about what the line is before, and I won't say what it is. And that's not because it's a particularly special line or anything like that - it's just that if I share it too soon, I lose the drive to get there. (Not to mention it wouldn't mean much to anyone who didn't know the story anyway). But then I get derailed by expectations - is it a good enough ending to aim for? Should I be doing something different?
During the writing process, that's no good for me. Write first, edit later, share when it's ready. In this case, my first draft was 92k. I started to edit it over the summer (and was derailed due to pain and surgery issues) - but I realized the end line didn't fit the story. It was too pat and things came too easily for the protagonist. There was no impact for me as the writer anymore, so I've moved it. And now I'm at over 126k and chugging along - and planting seeds as I go for the second book, so when it's time for that end line? I'll be ready for it.