Monday, October 21, 2013

I know How It Ends!

So last night I'm sitting there writing, 97k words into novel #3, when a plot twist pops into my head. I get so excited about it that I have to tell someone, so, like Jimmy Carter talking to Amy about nuclear weapons, I drag my son out of bed and sit in the dark living room telling him all about it.

I can't tell my wife because it will ruin the book for her before she gets a chance to read it. My son is ten, and already has a good writing head on his shoulders. We swap story ideas all the time. Besides, earlier in the week I told him the whodunit part of my plot (he looked at me with all the seriousness he could muster and told me to never again ruin one of my books for him like that).

The really great part about all this is that while I was sitting there telling my son how I'm going to work this twist into the plot, I realize I've just described the ending to him. I actually said, "Hey, that's how it ends!" I was excited. I've never known the ending to one of my books this far in advance.

With The Night Train, my first novel, I literally wrote the last line and prepared to start the next chapter when I realized the story had ended. With Norton Road, my second, I figured it out somewhere into the final chapter.

I know how novel #3 ends. Even better, instead of sleeping last night, I lay in bed and figured out how I'm going to get there. Okay, so I slept some. I had this nightmare about snakes invading my house and my rifle misfiring when I tried to shoot them, but I lay awake between snatches of sleep and worked on details. I have a clear path from where I am to the end of my novel. And, no, I didn't write any of it down. I'm not a note-taker. It's in my head, though. What if I forget it? Good question. I won't, because it's awesome. You don't forget awesome.

Does this mean I'm getting better at this writing thing? It certainly seems to come easier these days. My goal is for every novel to be a little better than the one before it. Plot-wise, suspense-wise, I think this one will fit that bill. Now my problem is finding time to write it. And a title. Titles come hard for me. Lack of title held novel #2 up for almost a month before it became Norton Road.

I'll think of a title, so I'm not worried. I'll think of one because I have to. I've got time. Did I mention that I know how this book will end?


  1. I thought your son was going to say, "never pull me out of bed again." But that would be when he was a teen. Congrats. it is exciting.. I am sure you are getting better and better as a writer, but this might not mean you are a better writer but that it is a different process. Thanks for the post.

  2. This post goes to show (me, at least) how true your last post is (5 things a writer...) -- you and I write from different approach but get to the same conclusion: good story. 1) I don't start "writing" the bulk of my novels until I know the ending; that much roadway is dangerous for a guy who already writes 250K+ word stories); 2) titles often give me story, though they may change somewhere along the way; 3) I don't talk to anyone about my story's progression (other than in the broadest arc & theme) while I'm working; I've found that talking/telling/suggesting pulls me out of the moment more than gives me ideas, which come from writing, thinking alone, walking alone, or while in the shower without a pen & paper handy (need to get a whiteboard & grease pen!); 4) I write my novels as "Islands" in an ocean, creating an archipelago across which I connect the dozens of scenes months later as I begin to see the condensed picture of the story.

    Different methods, same results. I know you work terribly hard on each sentence, Carl, and whatever methodology you'd found comfortable is the one you should use for as long as it works. As I work, I often hear the words of Philip Roth in my head: "If you work every day, after two years you'll have a book."

    Good luck as the light winks from the end of the tunnel.

    1. A very good summation of the meaning of that post (5 things a writer ...), Mark. I remember seeing a picture (on your blog?) of you in the midst of a sea of notes for the manuscript you were working on, and I remember thinking, I could NEVER do that much planning. It would drive me crazy, but you make it work.

      Speaking of my previous post, as much as I believe that piece of advice I read about never saying someone "walked" somewhere is bunk, I find myself, since reading it, second-guessing myself when I use the word.