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.