Tuesday afternoon, my gentleman friend came home to find me in a disheveled state. My hair was tousled, my clothes rumpled, my cheeks flushed, and my pulse racing.
No, he didn't catch me doing something illicit. He needed to come home at lunch for that.
But he did discover me in the midst of one of the most breathtakingly giddy parts of my writing process. It generally occurs around the 70,000-word mark when I know I've hit the home-stretch and all the loose threads finally start coming together.
(Let's all pause here and giggle about "coming together" being an integral part of concluding a romance novel).
According to my contract, my romantic comedy titles should be around 80,000-90,000 words. I tend to fall a little short of that on a first draft, and add at least 5,000 words once my critique partners and beta readers finish beating me up.
That means I have roughly 10,000 words left to write. More importantly, the plot holes that have been gaping at me for months look less like craters and more like shallow crevices that are a true pleasure to fill.
(Who wants to make the crevice-filling joke?)
In all seriousness . . . oh, who am I kidding? I write romantic comedy, why would I be serious?
But in reality, this home-stretch of writing is one of the rare and precious times I don't feel like a complete disaster as an author. Writers often divide themselves into two categories – the "plotters," who carefully plan out their plot points prior to starting a book, and the "pantsters" who fly by the seat of their pants with no plan at all.
I am a pantster. I am the worst kind of pantster in that I honestly have no earthly idea who my characters are or what they'll be doing for 85,000 words when I begin a book. I could feed you some line about how this free-spirited approach lets my creativity flow more fluidly, but that's a lie. The fact is, I'm a pantster because I'm too damn lazy to plot a book beforehand.
Which means I spend an awful lot of time fretting that I've just written myself into a corner. If you saw an early draft of any of my books, you'd notice at least a hundred instances of "XXXXXX" where I've marked things I need to return to because I have no idea how to complete the thought.
But honestly, that feeling of cluelessness is worth it so I can enjoy the rush that comes when things finally, finally start to gel. When I can go back and begin lacing in red herrings and character traits and details I omitted during my first stumbling trek through the story.
Few things are more exhilarating than seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and knowing I might get there walking upright instead of crawling on all-fours through a pile of broken glass.
(Anyone want to take the all-fours joke?)
Years ago when I first discovered the thrill of this stage in the writing process, I dubbed it, "the audible clicking of puzzle pieces." There's this moment where I truly believe I can hear those crooked jigsaw parts falling into place, and it's the best sound in the whole wide world.
If you're a writer, do you have a favorite stage in the process? For the non-writers among you, can you relate to the giddy feeling of hitting a turning point in your life or your career? Please share!
I'll be fiddling with my puzzle pieces and giggling like a giddy kid.