Scene by Scene to The End
By Natalie Bright
At some point during the process of writing your great masterpiece you’ll have to reach THE END.
Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. – Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird.
That self-editor and self doubt. The need to write the perfect prose. These are the things that will prevent you from ever typing the words THE END.
So stop it. WRITE.
The idea of writing an entire novel is very daunting. I used to tell everyone that I like short stories and freelance articles best because I can see an end to my efforts. But then an idea came to me and I wrote during lunch breaks and when I finally typed The End after several years, my novel went into a drawer. The next idea came to me and after two years of intense work it became a published nonfiction, and a few more finished books followed. And then an idea formed by way of a character to become a story that would not leave my brain. The finished novel caught the interest of my literary agent.
Going back to that manuscript that’s been waiting patiently in the drawer for many, many years, I’ve revived it into the most recent completed novel. The characters are ten years older and their story has changed location, but it’s done. You never know what those sparks of ideas can turn into. Just go with it.
The point being I’ve typed THE END on many completed novels since the time I said I’d never write one.
Finding The End.
So how can you ever reach the end? The answer: Scene by scene. Sit down and write the scene that’s in your head. And the next day, write the scene that’s in your head. And the next day, do it again. Don’t worry that the scenes may not be in order. You can fix that later, but you cannot fix a blank page. Stop obsessing over how long the chapters need to be or how the story will end. You’ll figure that out too. Don’t worry about your process. It’s going to be different for every book.
Just Keep Writing
Write whatever’s in your head, double-double space, type “Chapter Next”, and begin again with the next scene. Even if a bit of dialogue comes to me at the oddest of times, I make a note of it until I’m at the computer again. It might be a visual of action involving my characters, or a snippet of character conflict that needs to be added. I know what you’re thinking:
I can’t type that scene, I’m just on chapter two and that has to happen towards the middle.
I can’t type that character. I don’t even know who he is.
I can’t type that dialogue. It has nothing to do with the scene I’m writing now.
Some people read over what they’ve written to get them back in the story before they begin writing each time. For me, I have to sit down and type new words. If I re-read what’s before, I never get to the new parts because I’m obsessing over editing the words that are already there. Just keep writing, keep adding new words, however you have to make it happen.
As an example, the main character in my current WIP has a confrontation with her mother. The scene came to me out of the blue while I was school shopping with kids. I really concentrated at keeping the scene in my head until I could jot some notes when I got to the car. As soon as I got home, I hand-wrote it in a spiral. As I wrote, I realized this is part of a major arc for my main character and that the scene should probably be closer to the end. But who cares. I’ve got it down on paper. I can figure out where it goes later.
Allow your mind’s eye to see your story, because whether you realize it or not, your sub-conscious is working on that story 24/7. It has to be true. Otherwise why do those ideas come to you at the most ridiculous times. Listen to your internal creative muse and STOP arguing with yourself. As an added note, under Chapter Next, include notes as to what the main conflict or action might be. When the first draft is done, print it out and organize the chapters in order. During the next read through you can fill in plot holes. The good news is you’ve actually got words on paper. Let the editing begin!