I’ve often said — and I’ll probably say this many more times — that the hardest thing about writing is figuring out how you do it. The process other writers use to get from an idea to a finish novel can, at best, help you see possibilities of working, but no writer can take another writer’s process and simply use it.
For me, I’ve slowly come to see I’m very much a cycle writer. What this means, in general, is that I cycle through the story, adding and cutting and pushing the story forward with each pass. I’m not much of a “mini-cycler” the way, say, Dean Wesley Smith is. If you follow his on-going blog, you know that he continually makes small cycles, going back a couple hundred words, doing larger cycles rarely. I’m more of a “macro-cycler” the way, say, Harlan Coben is. About every 50 pages, maybe more, maybe less — it depends — I start at the beginning and read the story all the way through. Sometimes I do this because I really don’t know where I’m going, and other times I do this because I want to add and/or cut depending on the story is progressing. But mostly, I want to make sure there’s continuity.
Today, when I sat down to write, I realized I don’t have the faintest idea as to how to end this novel, THE SEER AND THE MADMAN. I’m right there on the cusp. Everything is lined up — except, I don’t know how it’s going to play out … and I don’t know even what direction to face. If I had one or the other, I think I could write. If I knew the ending, I would know how to get there. And if I knew which direction to face — even if I didn’t know the ending — I could at least put words on paper and see where it would lead. But I’m really lost at the moment.
Well, maybe not that lost.
One thing that often surprises me about writing — and perhaps it’s writing’s biggest joy — is when you surprise yourself. That is to say, when you don’t plan on something, but it’s there nevertheless. A “Muse Bomb,” as Holly Lisle would call it. When you find one and are able to use it, it’s a real thrill.
So while I don’t know how this sucker is going to end, I’m confident that my ending is already in the story — somewhere. A freshly printed manuscript sits next to me, to my left, and as soon as I get done here, I’m sitting down with it, a pencil, and a fresh cup of coffee, and I’m going to start reading.
All with a view to finding the story’s ending.