Are we there yet?

As I work towards the end of writing my first draft, I find myself racing to the end. I can see the finish line, but like one of my recurring nightmares, it becomes farther and farther to reach. Almost like something is pulling it away each time I take a step closer.

The word count of my story is growing, currently at 56 thousand words, meeting my initial goal of 30 thousand. Even though this was a hefty goal for a new writer, I’m a person who needs a specific goal to keep focused. I never dreamed I would then surpass it by this much and in such a short timeframe. The amazing thing is my story still isn’t complete. So where do I go from here? How long should my story be?

Every resource I’ve reviewed provides the simplest answer, as long as it takes to tell the whole story. According to the article provided on the Writer’s Digest website, between 80,000 and 89,999 is a good range when writing an adult novel but that also depends on the genre. A broad range was also mentioned with as few as 71,000 and up to 109,000 words.

“A good book has no ending.” – R.D. Cumming

I know that when I finish my first draft, and start the process of revising, this word count will change drastically. I follow many authors on social media and several of them have posted horror stories about cutting out large chunks of material (maybe even 2000 – 5000 words) that were once thought to be their favorite scenes. However, these sections were replaced with new scenes that increased the word count and ultimately improved their story in the process.

When starting my draft, the focus has been on writing a good beginning, followed by keeping the tension and conflict high throughout the middle half of the story. But now I’m finding the ending is equally challenging. Each scene at this point is more difficult and takes me longer to write because the story is reaching the point where the tension and emotions are the highest. I’ve really had to dig deep the last few days to write scenes where my main character is struggling and it seems like there will be no way out of her current situation. Who wants to make things unbearable for a person who is now your good friend, compiling more problems on them just as soon as they recover from the first or even the second curve ball thrown their way?

My next challenge for writing the last half is finding a way to achieve an ending that is thrilling, realistic, and unpredictable.  What do I need to do to write an ending that the reader doesn’t want to end, one that when finished, it keeps replaying in their head, or an ending that makes them want to read more of my work?

I recently found a great exercise in the book by James Scott Bell, Plot & Structure, that I will be completing next week and wanted to share for those who are also working on the same thing. This exercise is designed to create endings with a twist and involves spending 30 minutes, brainstorming a list of 10 different endings. After making this list, leave it for a few days, let the imagination run wild, and then come back to it picking out the top 4. The next step is sitting on the revised list a little longer and then pick the one with the best twist. The new ending can be edited into the existing story and then add new hints/clues throughout for continuity and setting up a stronger plot to reach the desired ending.

This sounds like a great exercise and I can’t wait to give it a try. I’ll be sure and keep you posted on how this works out for me.

“To get through the hardest journey we need take only one step at a time, but we must keep on stepping” – Chinese Proverb

In this case, we must keep on writing.

Crafting Villains: A Love Hate Relationship

hannibal lecter

Think back to the most recent movie or television show watched, or even the latest book you read.

Who was the villain in the story?

What did you remember most about this person?

Recently, I posted this question to my friends on social media, and as expected, the results were unanimous with characters such as the famous Hannibal Lector, Colonel Tavington from the Patriot, and Joker played by Heath Ledger.

As I write my way through the first draft, one of the biggest challenges has been building tension and conflict between the characters. The character that has been the most difficult for me to write is the villain, or the antagonist. You know, that person everyone loves to hate.

It is fairly easy to create an evil character who fits the typical “bad guy or girl” mold, but it’s more difficult to create one that will be realistic and unforgetable to the reader. This is definitely a goal of mine when writing a novel with elements of suspense.

So my questions are: “What makes a good villain?” and “How do I create an original antagonist that makes the story more interesting?

I want to share three very helpful websites that present great information on how to write villains in fiction.

Laura Wooffitt Create Your Own Bad Guys and Sleazy Protagonists

Sometimes unlikeable protagonists have redeeming qualities mixed in with their negative qualities, which makes them enormously complex.

I found this quote very interesting since we don’t usually think about most bad guys having redeeming qualities. When analyzing what makes the villains like Hannibal Lector memorable, I would definitely say he was complex.

Figment Blog: How to Write a Sympathetic Villain

The best stories are the ones where, if you rewrite it from the antagonist’s point of view, that person would become the protagonist, and it would still be a compelling story. Every character has their own reasons for what they do, and the more in-depth and relatable those reasons are, the more sympathetic your villain will be—and the more compelling your story will be as well.

This bit of information really put a whole new perspective on how to write my villain. One of my favorite authors takes this a step further and develops characters who would normally be considered villains in most stories and then writes them as the hero in her stories. I feel this is a brilliant concept and really makes the most original characters.

Janice Hardy 10 Traits of a Strong Antagonist

A strong antagonist makes a strong protagonist, which makes a strong story. Strong stories make for happy readers. It’s a win/win for everyone involved. Except maybe the antagonist, who probably gets defeated, but that’s kind of her job.

Isn’t this what all writers want to achieve – a strong story and ultimately one that makes readers happy? This is exactly what I hope to do with my novel.

Okay, it’s time to get back to work. I have a sympathetic, flawed, highly motivated, compelling, believable, but unpredictable antagonist to write.

Seeing Beyond the Mistakes

This 4th of July holiday, I brought my camera along with me to a fireworks show. It would have been smart to set up my camera with the settings for this type of event. Instead, I winged it and clicked away with hopes to capture the moment in brilliant detail. I snapped at least fifty pictures that evening.

I was excited to see the results. Unfortunately, many of the first pictures were like this one – blurry, off center, and caught the net on the field in front of me.

The next group of photos seemed to get a little worse. I’ll spare you by not posting them.

After sifting through all of the pictures, maybe two or three were close to the quality I wanted. But when I looked at them with a different perspective, and edited them, they became more promising.

Revised Firework Photo

Several photos didn’t even resemble fireworks but I still chose to edit them. Right before my eyes, they morphed into something completely cool and unexpected.

Mistake Photo Fireworks


The process of writing is similiar – like splattering paint against an empty canvas and waiting to see what happens. I’ve learned to put everything down on paper, regardless of the way it looks or sounds. Later, I come back and read the piece again with a different perspective.

Much like my recent photography experience, most of what I write in the beginning is really bad. There are only a few items I would consider useful, but they improve with major revising. Then among all of the rubble, I find suprises that first appear as mistakes, but turn out to be something amazing.

Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.
– William Faulkner