Thursday, March 1, 2012

Plot: the last ten percent is the hardest.

I've just reached the point in writing my eighth novel, 'On the Nature of the Gods,' where it starts to get really hard.

The last ten percent is the hardest in terms of logic and persuasion. It is vital to weave together the threads of the narrative, and take all the characters that were developed separately in early chapters and bring them together in a climactic solution to the problems set them by the narrative. All of these people have been brought to this point, at this particular place and time, under this particular set of circumstances. No matter how ribald and absurd, it must have sufficent logic to satisfy the reader. They have to be able to follow along.

This is where control comes in, and how we end up with a wedding or something.

Oh, yeah, baby. This is defintely the climax of the book!

I slow right down. I daydream a lot. And yet at the same time, my mental gatekeeping is a lot better than it was two or three years ago. I don't write anything I don't have to. While the attitude may be different if an author was shooting for a 100,000 word manuscript, what I am doing now, is finishing the plot.

I want to get to the end of the plot.

I'm shooting for 60,000 words, which is all it takes to call it a 'novel.'

If someone asked you for an estimate for 32,000 square feet of drywall board, would you offer them an estimate for 45,000 square feet and a microwave oven? If someone wanted a 2,500 square-foot roof done, would you ask your crew to put a few shingles on the house next door while they were at it?

("Not I," said the cat.)

What I need to do is to hit the end of my plot at about 60,000 words. At this point, 59,990 would be okay too, as the next step is re-writing, and that's when a lot of detail will be added in. This novel has no need to go over 70,000 words.

This is a comedy. It's not 'War and Peace.'

This is where we earn the big bucks, because from this point on, is where most manuscripts fail. This is where most beginning authors fail--they get 90 % of a book done. Then they start to worry about what other people think if they don't get it exactly right. This is why the wedding is so important--the book wouldn't get done otherwise.

Somehow we have to get the people to the wedding, and the only way we can do it is to write them there...getting people to where they must be on time is like planning a wedding, or anything else involving time, motion, and space, from multiple points of view.

That's why I don't want to write too much. It makes my job a lot simpler. My head only has so much capacity.

It's not nececesary to write about a wedding with three hundred guests. Too much happened, there are too many stories and too many perspectives. This particular story, 'On the Nature of the Gods,' has maybe twenty characters, and I only introduce a crowd, 'people walking down a street,' or 'people at a wedding,' if I really need it.

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