Tuesday, February 2, 2016

I Figured Out How To End My Novel As I Wrote This Blog Post

I'm literally about a chapter away from ending my novel, and yet I can't decide how to end it.

Hello, and welcome to Ryan's Blog, where I rant on about my struggles to write a novel that you know nearly nothing about. Yes, this is going to be one of those posts.

Endings are tough. You have to basically wrap up all the loose strings from your novel into a really neat-looking bow. It's hard enough to wrap up the end of two ribbons into an actual bow, so this is just insane.

Actually, the ending was kind of easy for the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo; the type of plot I was writing basically allowed for only one of two possibilities, and I just had to pick the best of those two and try my best to carry it out. This, however, is a completely different monster.

And what a monster it is. As it's the first novel I've attempted to write proper (that is to say, not counting the "long story" I wrote as my first attempt at a novel - that one didn't even make it to twenty thousand words in length), it's been a very, very rough process. The overall idea stayed the same, but the details, both large and small, changed dramatically over the course of writing to the point that I felt the overwhelming need to publicly blog my promise to stop going back and changing so much. What I'm left with is a very Frankensteinian (a word I've just now coined to mean "liking to Frankenstein's monster in that it's made up of many non-matching parts to create a whole that resembles a cohesive final product, though the seams used to connect the non-matching parts are very much visible, as is the fact that those parts do not match") rough draft.

One character was shy and kept to herself, and suddenly she's bluntly honest and forward. One character was a potential love interest, and then he was a bit of a stalker, and suddenly he's just some random mutual friend. Didn't this person say they were an only child? Where did this brother come from?! That sort of thing.

But you get what kind of monster it is - I need to get back on track. The ending.

The ending, in this case, can be narrowed down by determining just what exactly the novel is about and what lessons it aims to teach both the reader and the main character. The problem is that I've spent so much time on this novel and changed it so dramatically over the years that I can't really tell for sure what it's about anymore.

I got so stressed about this three weeks ago that I attempted to write a synopsis of the novel's plot from beginning to end in hopes that simplifying it would give me clarity into what it's about and how it should end. The results of this experiment? I drafted up an ending that made about as much sense as I could figure out at the time, but, unlike the moment I thought of the novel's clever title, I just didn't feel 100% confident and certain about it.

And now, as I've just finished writing another scene, yet another ending has presented itself to me - one that I had been specifically trying to avoid for quite some time. You see, without giving anything away, I'd been working under the idea that I wanted to write a story about a girl stumbling into some very implausible situations, trying to make them work for her life, and then having a reality-check in the form of everything coming crashing down along with the realization that life just doesn't work like that; not everybody gets a happy ending because we're all just background characters in someone else's life. Jeez, that sounds like someone learned how to fly so I threw them into a pit of fire.

The thing is that the short story this novel is based on had a totally different spirit to that proposed ending. The short story was lighthearted and fun. While I tried to retain this same spirit in the novel, over time it eroded away and became more of a serious drama with only slight glimmers of the story it started as. The ending, then, became a bleak reality-check - though with a positive lesson for the main character at the end. While I still believe it's important to increase the drama as the novel goes on, I'm beginning to realize (literally, as I write this blog post) that I lost sight of what I wanted to write in the first place. I wanted to humanize an overused archetype. I wanted to make you like her.

There it is. Just as I wrote the last sentence of that paragraph, everything clicked into place. I know now how it has to end. I need the reader to be on her side. I need her to be the lovable archetype. I need to remove the story from reality and keep its feet planted firmly in the fantasy.

Wow. I'm so glad I decided to write this blog. I had no idea it would end with me knowing confidently what I want to do with the novel.

Knowing my history, I'll write another in a month or two about how the ending changed again.