Thursday, October 25, 2012

The moments that leave you panting

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.


Mary said...

I love when there's a scene with a piece of snarky dialogue where the character has an awesome comeback that you *wish* you'd been able to use when someone said something mean/rude/annoying to you. When the back and forth between the hero and heroine creates sparks that are practically visible.

Writing is at times a catharsis and at times so stressful I don't have to wonder why my hair falls out and I break out (at my age, too! Unfair, world.). And when it all comes together in the end...magic. Tingles. Fireworks.

Giggle on, chickadee!

Skye said...

I've only just started writing again after something like a 15-year hiatus and only finished a first draft of one novel, but I loved as I started to come to the end and suddenly the tension mounted (I said mounted!) all by itself without tedious machinations on my part and the end came in a clear swoop that was organic and exciting and a complete surprise. It was wonderful. Now I have to revise and I've been afraid. But I will begin soon. Someone else mentioned NaNoReviseMo and I think I'll do that. :)

I can't wait for your next book. I don't have a Kindle so wasn't able to read Getting Dumped. :(

Julie Glover said...

I can relate to the feeling. My favorite part might be around the 1/4-1/3 mark when I can see that this novel isn't just a story that seemed like a good idea when I concocted in in the conditioner stage of showering when I should have been practicing my karaoke routine again, but an actual finishable book.

Congrats on getting so close!

Neurotic Workaholic said...

I'm a pantser too, because I think it's more fun to write that way. The best part of writing for me is when one of my characters says something that surprises me; that is, when he or she says or does something that I hadn't even been thinking of before. If I plotted everything out beforehand, there might be fewer surprises.

Jeffe Kennedy said...

Ah, the puzzle clicking moment... sheer bliss! When you discover that all the bizarre, meaningless details you've been wasting wordcount on along the way actually MEAN something!

Unknown said...

I prefer the start of the journey and then by the end I'm so overwhelmed by the plot holes that I just want to wrap it up and hide it forever. So definitely I prefer the first 10k or so. I'm a pantser too, at least up to that point and then I start outlining things because I have enough of a plot in my head by then.

Karin said...

You're not a pantser because you are lazy, because that's a lot more work. All the cul de sacs you have to run into, and out again, all the nice sceneries and smart dialogues that have to go in the end...

No, you are a pantser bacause it's much more fun. Like reading a book for the first time. Rereding it never has the same discovery qualities. Congrats on the 70 000!

Raley Blue said...

My favorite part in the writing is when the characters finally get to that amazing kiss, the first, middle, last or one stolen in between, it doesn't matter, because there is always a point when they have THE MOST AMAZING KISS when the rest of the story falls together... maybe happily ever after, maybe not, but the moment in which it happens is always breathless.

Wendy said...

I always have trouble believing there are people who can actually plot their whole novel through. I just feel like the writing process is so UNRULY that it defies pinning down completely.

Or I'm "lazy" too. :)