I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this before but I always find the last few chapters of a novel the most challenging to write, mainly because this is where the book is the “fastest.”
You usually start at about 60km/hr. A comfortable pace, not to slow to be boring, but not so quick that the reader can’t take in the scenery out the window. It’s a time to build tension.
You feed it in slowly, here and there, drop your hints, incrementally increasing your speed little by little as you go. In engineering speak, if you’re upping the velocity by about 10km/hour per chapter, you’re doing it about right. In general, I have a lot of fun around the middle of the book, where the reader knows all the characters pretty well and I can just start having fun with them. You know, really laying on the torture thick and watching them tie themselves in knots.
But the ending, damn it, there’s just no time for fun. No time for looking out the window anymore. You’re just going too fast. I like the finish to be explosive. And so, with that in mind, I try to tie up as many of my strings all at once, in one big focal event that brings everything together – both emotional and external conflicts. The race to the finish line should be, well… a race. I want my reader to arrive there breathless.
My latest manuscript is no different. Only this time around I’ve been battling. Why? Because I have three heroines and about six story lines all colliding in the final chapters. That’s a difficult set of balls to juggle, especially for a panster who has no idea where she’s going.
So this week, I did the ultimate flip face. I decided to do something I’ve never done before and plot, (yes I do say that like it’s a dirty word), the ending – Scene by scene. I just couldn’t see a way around not doing it without my head spinning out of control. So with the aid of paper cards and colour coding textas, I have managed to story board my ending into eighteen scenes.
It feels amazing!
In fact, I feel like I’ve just discovered a new food group. And I’ve cut down my stress levels by about half. Now all I have to do is stick with it.
I’ll let you know how I go!