Crunch Time

There comes a time in every writer’s life when you just have to finish the book. That means you can’t have lunch with your friends. You have to tell your kids to grow up a little and make their own darn snacks. And you have to apologize to your significant other and promise you’ll be a better person as soon as you finish the book.
And wouldn’t you know it, I’m going through that perilous stage right now, which explains why this blog post will be a relatively short one. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve become very good at saying no. No, I can’t go to the movie theater and see Selma, even though I want to very badly. No, I can’t respond to all those Facebook messages. No, I can’t get a haircut now! I have to finish the book!
I’m glad, though, that I took a quick break on Wednesday to read Joe’s post about The Basics of Endings. As he mentioned, it’s crucial to bring all the elements of the story together at the end of the novel. One thing I’d like to add: it’s often satisfying to speed up the narration at the climax. In my books, everything gets faster and shorter at the end — the sentences, the paragraphs, the chapters. I bounce around more frequently between the point-of-view characters as the bullets fly and the bombs explode. This narrative acceleration sometimes makes me jittery. I have to finish, I have to finish!
Here’s an analogy: have you ever tried walking across a tightrope or a balance beam? And you were doing great until you were just a few feet from the end, but then you started to lose your balance? And you realized that the only way to make it across was to forget all about balancing and just run like hell? That’s the way I feel right now.

Okay, I’m done. No more interruptions. You know what I have to do   

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11 thoughts on “Crunch Time

  1. I’m at the very same point. And yet, here I am checking out TKZ. BUT…I have cut down on the social networking. Checking out TKZ and Janet Reid has turned into a crucial part of my pre-write routine. Can’t settle down to it until I know what’s going on in these two sites.
    Strange, that, when you think about it.
    “No, mother, can’t talk right now. Call you back later.”
    And then go check out what total strangers have to say.
    Makes me wonder if my priorities are skewed. And why am I rambling on here?
    Avoidance.

    • Ditto here Amanda. Even with the deadline vise squeezing me last week, I still stopped here every day for a moment. It was like getting a jolt of oxygen before going back under.

  2. With every book I stall toward the end on purpose, as if my body is sabotaging my brain. My heart is the procrastinating menace. It took me awhile to realize that I didn’t want the story or the characters to be over. Once I realized my heart’s sneaky plan, I see the ruse begin and thwart it with a chuckle. It happens every time.

  3. Mark,
    I was at the same point two weeks ago. Those awful jolt-upright-in-bed-at-three moments when some devil is yelling in your ear: “You’ll never make it!” The papers on your desk pile up, dustballs tumble-weed across the living room, the husband is living on Boston Chicken, the dogs bark when you come in the door because they don’t recognize you anymore.

    Like you said, life speeds up (as does your writing) while you yourself seem sealed in some bubble. I was behind on this book and consequently ended up rushing my ending. But I did make my deadline and when my editor’s comments came in two days ago, she suggested we go back and redo the end. Which we had already started to do because we knew it needed work. It happens. Some books come easy. Some fight you all the way. Some slide out ugly and rough and you have to clean them up before you let the world see them. My sister says this is the same with babies. But you love them all.

    Good luck!!!!

  4. I guess I am backwards.
    I don’t usually have trouble ending a manuscript.
    My avoidance issues come when I try to start the next book in the series. Don’t know why that is. Fear of the blank page, perhaps?

  5. I usually can’t wait to get to the end when I’m near the finish line. This makes it critically important to go back during revisions and make sure the finale isn’t rushed. But what a wonderful feeling to reach the last page.

  6. Gee, I wish I had that problem. Unfortunately, i’ve recently learned in my effort to pare words, my ending is very rushed. So, now I am back to slowing down and fleshing out the bones. What’s that you say? No more than 120,000 words, yeah, right.

    Fortunately, I wrote for a weekly horse racing magazine for 23 years and the Tuesday noon deadline was not negotiable, so me and my muse have a good working relationship.

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