Sunday, January 16, 2011


A few blogs ago I wrote about my writing dry spell. Since then I started, persevered, and finished a story, but the story isn't working. Or, rather, two-thirds of it is working -- characters, voice, incidents -- but the ending is wrong. And I have no idea what the right ending might be.

This is partly a consequence of the way I work, which is the only way I can work. I never know the ending when I begin, being incapable of thinking something through until I'm actually writing it through. Usually, however, the ending occurs to me as I write, and I know it's the right ending because I'm excited about it. Passion is the literary indicator that I'm on the right track. This time, it's just not there.

Passion can take many forms. Yesterday's newspaper included a story about a woman who constructed a fourteen-feet long by four-feet high replica of da Vinci's "The Last Supper" completely out of dryer lint. She bought and repeatedly washed towels of various colors to collect the lint in the shades she needed. The project to0k 800 hours of laundry and 200 hours of gluing on laundry lint. That is passion. (It could also be several other things, but let's focus on the passion.)

My story needs a new last third. I will set it aside and hope something comes to me, but I'm not sanguine because in my experience, that doesn't happen too often. Either the right end occurs to me as I'm doing the first draft, or I never get it. Sigh. And I really liked my character, young Eliot Tremling.

If I could, I'd make Eliot a collector of dryer lint. But that isn't going to work, either. Too bad.


MikeP said...

"It could also be several other things, but let's focus on the passion."

*Laughs out loud*

Bryan H. Bell said...

Maybe you could harness the power of your blog's audience to help you find an ending. Perhaps explaining the scenario and soliciting suggestions would help jar loose some interesting angle that hadn't occurred to you.

If you feel really brave, you could try submitting a request for suggestions to the Internet hive mind by posting it to a social network such as reddit.

Nancy Kress said...

If I post a story on line, I risk having lost first rights when I sell it to a paying market.

TK Kenyon said...

E.M. Forster: "Only connect!"

(Hi Nancy! I really like your writing. I hope you finish this one so I can read it somewhere.)

TK Kenyon

TheOFloinn said...

Knowing the ending ahead of time can be crucial for a mystery, but it also carries the risk of forcing the characters to behave a certain way solely in order that they reach their appointed destiny. This is a risk, not a certainty, as the author may have the whole thing imagined in its entirety.

I am not yet near the end of my current opus, but yesterday I had decided it had gone some 700 words down the wrong alley. I bit the bullet, deleted, and started afresh. I will probably next discover that I have gone 9000 words down the wrong alley, that being the current length. OTOH, I do know how it will all end, knew it from the beginning, and developed the two main characters' personalities with very thing in view.

For me, it has always been the middles of stories that trouble me.

Orion said...

Dryer lint doesn't work,eh? Maybe you could make Eliot the one guy on Earth who knows where all the missing socks go.

Bonus points if you can plausibly make him the culprit.

Did you ever finish your dryad-and-the-Vietnam-vet story? Just curious. It sounded like a fun concept.

Unknown said...

I love your work, Miss K, and I've learned a *heck* of a lot about writing from you over the last decade or so. Thus, I hope you can finish your story if you still believe in it. The way you sound, I wouldn't worry about it too much. There's obviously either something missing or not working out in the story. If you believe in the story, then just keep writing. It'll be fine. I sure as heck know what that sounds/feels like so you have my condolences.

bluesman miike Lindner said...

How 'bout this, Nancy?

There seems to be an explosion on Mars...

Something comes shrieking though the Earth's atmosphere...

It lands in Seattle!

Tentacled beings emerge...

"More stories, Nancy!"

bluesman miike Lindner said...

Nancy, why are you sabotaging yourself?

You're a mother. You know babies must breathe by themselves.

Let your new fiction breathe! And when the story goes "W-W-A-A-
A-H-H!", it will all be worth it.

TheOFloinn said...

Sure and it's when the author goes "W-W-A-A-A-H-H!" that you're in trouble.