Time for a new weekly writer’s roundup of my works-in-progress and those ready to read!
Ah, the last week of the year. That weird bridge between the Christmas and New Year’s holidays usually built with equal parts fatigued lethargy and retrospective. Although I am writing a retrospective for the year to be posted on Saturday, I didn’t feel very lethargic over the long weekend.
After almost a month, the sixteenth and next-to-last chapter of Vivian’s Last Cigarette is finally done.
December has been a month filled with detours keeping me from finishing the novel. Holiday commitments and house winterization are guilty for the lion’s share of that… writing my short story Ounta accounts for the rest. But I never really stopped working on Vivian’s, the work just slowed for a lack of time and saw less return measured in terms of word-count.
Chapter sixteen got a lot of revision over the month. I had it written about halfway to its current length of five-thousand words at the end of November. Then I had a two-week interruption, and when I returned to it in mid-December and re-read my work I wasn’t happy with it. I started a big edit of the whole thing, throwing out some and reworking most of the rest.
The primary climax of the book happens in chapter fourteen with the falling action underway by fifteen. However, the tone of the book required a secondary climax to conclude its romantic arc satisfyingly. I weaved this into the falling action, and I think that gave chapters fifteen and sixteen a good emotional structure. Sixteen in particular gained a lot of strength from this: It richly answers a lot of questions readers likely have had since the mid-point of the book… but the emotional undercurrent kept it fresh. It prevented a feeling of a denouncemental exposition… which was exactly the problem that prompted me to rewrite most of the chapter in order to get it done right.
Ending the romantic arc was also was extremely stratifying. I was able to conclude it the way I have envisioned doing so since late summer. At that point the piece was going through at lot of growing pains as it transitioned from a short story, to a novelette, to a novella and then finally a novel. I had scrapped the original ending I had in mind… although its essence would remain throughout the book in the timbre of Viv and Gronk’s evolving conversations.
But the core thing is that I was frustrated, because I didn’t know how to end the book at the time.
I had the basis of the dramatic climax put together, but it wasn’t going to work as the romantic conclusion. I had discarded the old ending knowing it wouldn’t have enough weight after what I had planned now… And I had really liked that ending too! It was what got me writing the story in the first place! The plot remained stuck on that point for weeks even as I continued to write.
If you’d had spied on me writing Vivian’s Last, you’d know that 1980s music has been a favored soundtrack… Particularly what I thought would have been in Gronk and Viv’s collections in 1989. And it was listening to one such song that a muse visited me like a hero, and evoked an instant of clarity. In that moment, I saw the ending I wanted and needed. I started writing my way towards it that very day. It just changed everything.
I closed chapter sixteen reaching that ending, and I think it did a splendid job. Praise the muses. :-)
Having surpassed the 65,000 word mark, it’s now time to write the last chapter. Seventeen is going to be different from the prior two in that, thematically, the big arcs of the novel are done. My focus won’t need to be on tying things up with it. In a way, I’m ending it with a fresh wind full of possibilities.
There are a few open threads (one rather major) left, but the last chapter only ties up one that’s been a part of the plot since the beginning. I’ll be ending the story tying it in, but the idea is that the epilogue will close with the door ajar. Not a cliffhanger that leaves the reader with burning questions… but something open and promising more.
It should be fun to write, and I’m definitely planning for it to be funny. ;-)
Alright, time for me to stop blogging and get back to writing some more fiction! Take care!