Writing Endings is Hard

Writing endings is hard for me—not because I have to decide what happens but also how and why it happens. Endings are more than just the who, what, when, and where. That stuff is basic storytelling logistics. The hard part, in my opinion, is the emotion behind the words. Engineering a specific feeling or, at the very least, a combination of storytelling mechanics that gives readers the space to feel a certain way.

You know when you read a story that just “feels” right and makes you feel…something? Yeah, well my ending doesn’t have the “feels right” thing yet—not all of it, anyway—and I’ve rewritten it many times. The best part? Chances are if I don’t feel it (whatever “it” is), then neither will the reader.

Parts of my ending I am happy with. I edited and sliced things that weren’t working with my updates on the rest of the story. I even added an epilogue with content I originally thought would work well as an opening to Book II though, after further thought, I decided it would feel out-of-place there and instead would be a better end cap to Book I. (It’s told from a secondary character’s perspective in a place that the protagonist can’t physically be, but it helps to add a sense of resolution after the protagonist’s story ends.) Also, during my rewriting slog in this very narrow—yet highly important—section of my novel, I came up with some more material to use in the second book.

Still, I’ve got a few paragraphs (the last of the final chapter) that I’m just not sure how I want to swing.

Thing is…I don’t think this is something that can or should be forced. Since I’ve been stuck on this for a few weeks now, I decided to leave what I have and continue working on the rest of my rewrites and edits. That should give my subconscious enough space to work something out in the meantime. (It’s crazy what your brain can do while you sleep/eat/live or otherwise do stuff that has nothing to do with the thing you actually want it to do.)

I’ve already gotten some of my larger rewrites done during this slog, so that’s nice. Today, I’m just going to skim through and see which parts have the largest sections that still need rewrites so I can work on those over the next couple of weeks then print those out and scribble down any edits I might need to do on just those parts. (Anytime you change something, imo, it needs to be examined in the scope of the larger framework surrounding it to make sure it still flows.) Then I can work on all the other edits—the easier stuff like grammar, missing words, the order of words, sentence structure, word choice, etc.—from beginning to end. That way, the chronology of the story is fresh in my mind, and I’m seeing it as the reader does.

That’s the plan, anyway!

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Blending Fantasy & Espionage + Revisions Update

The other day, I was Googling stuff about fantasy novels that have prominent espionage threads in them. (There really aren’t very many when compared to other genre mashups.) Anyway, I came upon this article entitled “An Uncoiled Spring: The Absence of Real-world Tensions,” which examines how some science fiction and fantasy stories go about incorporating “the devices and techniques of espionage fiction,” as put by author Chris Gerwel.

As a writer who’s been working on a novel that combines (science) fantasy conventions with espionage trappings, I find this highly interesting.Read More »

On Finding a Novel’s Target Audience & Understanding Reader Expectations (Part II)

Last week, I mused a bit about the importance of identifying your target audience as an author and understanding reader expectations within your genre(s). This week, I wanted to follow up with some more thoughts on this as it pertains to my WIP, TEROH.

Before I get too far, I’d like to point out that a lot of these thoughts are stemming from a few things: beta reader comments I received, reviews that I read on books that are similar to mine, and also things I’ve been learning recently about selling and publishing on Amazon. Some books from indie authors are more financially successful than others—and while I don’t think things like good cover designs, good book descriptions, and the use of well-researched keywords along with an apt selection of categories/genres are the only reasons for their success, they do tend to be a substantial part of it when you look a little closer.

With the right positioning, a book can get a decent amount of hits from organic searches over time and better reach its intended audience. But if you haven’t considered the market and don’t know and understand who your intended audience is or what they’re looking for, then how are you supposed to reach them? As a writer still weighing the pros and cons of self-publishing vs. traditional, these are the reasons I’m considering all of this now.

As I see it, knowing the answers to these questions from a writing standpoint is just as important from a marketing one.Read More »

Using Beta Reader Feedback & Highlighters to Analyze & Shorten Your (Long-Ass Fantasy) Novel

If you’re like me and know you could probably shorten your novel but have no idea how to go about doing that because “OMG, I love/need everything—the feeeeelz!”…then you just might like this post.

Writers who are looking for agents hear it time and time again: word count matters. But that doesn’t make it easier to contend with—especially if you’re a fantasy writer and you decided to create your own world. Finding beta reader(s) to take a crack at your novel can help you find some of your story’s problems. However, they won’t necessarily tell you outright, “Hey, I really think you need to shorten this book,” or, “Hey, I think you should cut X, Y, and Z out.” You may hear something more like, “This part didn’t really do much for me,” or, “I feel like it took too long for such-n-such to happen.” Some of that might be pacing or lack of development…or the opposite: too much development (in the wrong places).

Regardless, if you know you’ve written a doorstopper, then y’already know things need to shrink to have the best chance at finding representation and selling your novel (if that’s the route you want to go). My story is currently hovering around the 216K mark. I’m not expecting miracles—I truly feel this is a big story that will lose something vital if I try to take it to something like 120K, so I will pitch to UK agents or self-publish if I have to—but I do want to challenge myself to cut a minimum of 40K words. The good news is I found a ridiculously easy way to cut 25% of that goal with little to no heartbreak; the bad news is I still need to find where the other 75% (or more) is hiding.

So how am I planning to do that?

Well, I’ve talked about some of this before on the blog, but if you’re more of a visual-audio person and more specific examples then check out my video! You can easily adapt the process I talk about for your own particular needs. It’s certainly helping me see my novel in a more objective light, and I’m barely getting started. (Not claiming to be the first to do this, by the way. I just go about it differently.)

Oh, and here’s a helpful hint: when the highlighters stop flowing largely in the color(s) that you need them to: you’ve definitely got some issues…

How do you find ways to shorten a lengthy novel?

Working with Beta Readers

Repeat after me: my novel will not appeal to everyone. My novel will not appeal to everyone. My novel will not appeal to everyone. 

This may seem obvious to some, and maybe not so much for others, but this matters in some very big ways but also some very small ones.

Some people like having romance subplots in their stories. Others don’t. Some like detailed history and political intrigue. Others don’t. Some need happy endings. Others are a bit more open.

Do you see what I mean?

This is why before you can even decide what feedback to listen to or how to interpret it, you as the author must decide what your novel is really about, what’s most important in your story, and what it is you’re trying to achieve. (Chances are if you can’t sum up your answers to these questions in a couple sentences each, you need to give this some thought. And if your blurb is well over 250 words, then you’ve probably got too much going on.) You also have to understand your readers—what they like and don’t like, what they’re used to reading, and what makes a good story in their opinions.

You can make all the changes in the world, but none of those will matter if you don’t have clear answers to these questions.

Why?

Because without answers, there isn’t enough clarity to help focus your story, which makes it susceptible to being led in a direction that you don’t necessarily want it to go—and then you really won’t be happy with the results.

Why Finding the Right Reader(s) for Your Novel is So Important

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