Writing update: brainstorming the ending of Curse

I’ve had a number of people ask me where I am with the second book. I have the progress bars on the side, but they don’t give any details. So I thought I’d start up a semi-regular post that would be something like a writer’s journal. We’ll see how it goes.

Right now I’m working on the climax of CURSE OF A DARK GOD. For the last two weeks I’ve been struggling trying to figure out the flow. I knew in general what I wanted to have happen. I had some images and the general feel–spectacle, revelation, battle at the fortress–knew I had to fulfill some expectations I’d raised with four characters. But I didn’t know the exact steps of the scene, the back and forth. I also hadn’t figured out the exact details of some of the magic that would be used.

I outlined the objectives and plans of the two opposing warlords and then the steps of the scene. I listed my objectives for the scene. I do this sketching, sometimes exploratory drafts, to help bring the scene to life in my mind. I find that until a scene is alive in my mind, it’s impossible for me to write. Anyway, over the course of two weeks I went through six takes of the scene, and it still didn’t feel right. I won’t give the details and spoil the ending, but it just wasn’t there and I was getting frustrated. I’m behind on my deadlines and a book’s ending it critical. I talked a few things over with Nellie and made some headway, but it just wasn’t there.

So I called a brainstorm meeting. I’ve never done this before for my writing work. I mean, I’ve bounced things off individuals (mostly Nellie) many times and found good resolutions, but I’ve never had a group. However, I felt I needed some extra input to get my mind going down new paths. Lenn Johnson, Amy and Alex Lamborn, and Miles and Becky Pinter came over. I borrowed a white board and easel from my church and made gingersnaps. When they arrived, I sat them around our kitchen table with Nellie and had them riff on one question while I captured their answers and ideas on the white board.

It was incredibly productive. Partly because they came up with some great ideas I’m going to use. But also because it got me thinking in a new way which allowed me to come up with an idea that resolved the main issue I was dealing with. That was last Thursday. The next day I sat down and outlined a scene that did everything I wanted it to, including giving me the “oh, baby” feeling. It feels right. I have the spectacle, the revelation, the fulfillment to the expectations for the characters. I’m excited to write it. Which means I can now move forward. This week and next I hope to finish. After that there are a few small things I need to insert and clean up. Then it’s off to my editor.

BTW, I did some calculations. For those interested, in this draft, the third, I ripped out 50% of the draft two and completely rewrote it. New problem and situation for two of my three points of view, major changes, etc. I heavily revised above 20% of the remaining 50%. I’ve put in a little over 500 hours working on this draft over the last six months.

500 hours  (remember, I still have a day job).

I am a slower writer than many. But it still would have been a huge task even if I could write twice as fast as I do. I think this is a perfect illustration of three things. First, if you don’t fix some things you feel are off when you find them, you might find you have a massive amount of rework later. Second, sometimes you don’t recognize you have those issues until you’re well into it. Third, writing requires the author to make time. I think this is the most important one. And the one that probably kills most aspiring writers. The fact is that if you can’t make time, you ain’t going to write 🙂

Speaking of making time as a new artist, watch this interesting interview with author Scott Turow.

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