Today was a hard day of writing. I only managed to get about three pages handwritten pages down.
The primary reason for my difficulty is that I’m getting close to the ending, which is always tricky. Starting a manuscript is easy, because the beginning simply lays a foundation of plot/character/setting, from which the story could take off in a hundred different directions. As the story progresses, those paths start to close, leading up to a single definite ending.
I am by nature a person who struggles with decisive plotting. When the story reaches an important decision point, I hate making a choice, because I know that by choosing one path, I close off a hundred different other branching paths. What if one of those other decisions makes for a better story? Instead, I end up hedging, having the characters make vacillating uninspired choices so that I can keep my options open. There’s probably something to be said about how my fear of decisive choices ties into other parts of my life, but that’s for another time.
The point is that once I got to the ending, the story thread was so hopelessly ambiguous that I couldn’t write anything without feeling like I was just shooting in the dark.
So what did I do?
I stepped away from the manuscript for a moment. Then I went back to the outline. I looked at the 27-chapter method that I discussed yesterday and focused specifically on which of the 27 points I knew for a fact that I had in the current draft. Then I honed in specifically on the ending and tried my best to outline the key ending scenes as thoroughly as possible.
It was a remarkably unintuitive choice that went totally against my nature, but it worked. Somehow, by “locking in” the ending of my story, I could then look backward at all the forking paths of the past and choose exactly which path to take that would lead me to my destination. In other words, the ending served as an anchor for the rest of the story. To alter a quote from Yogi Berra, “if you know where you’re going, not every road will get you there.”
So maybe today was a rougher writing day. But I’m grateful that I was able to step back from the scene-trees to see the story-forest. And with half an hour of intentional scribbling on a notepad, I’ve been able to gain some confidence to continue drafting. At least until the next crisis.
But we’ll get there when we get there.