Friday, June 28, 2013

Finish the Damned Book !!

It is a rule universally accepted that any item you drop on the floor and need desperately will automatically shrink exponentially in relation to how desperately you need said object. Actually, the entire world is shrinking. The print in newspapers, books and magazines is shrinking. Clothes are shrinking. The only thing that isn’t shrinking is the cost of living and Kim Kardashian’s ego. North West? Really? A name like that should come with a certificate for this little girl to get one free slap to the back of both parents’ heads to be accompanied by the question “What were you thinking??” (One uncle reportedly said “I like the name. It’s COOL. Get it? COOL? North?” Hope the kid got her brains from the other side of the family.)

Where was I? Oh yes! The incredible shrinking dropped object. I recently purchased a new washing machine. This is a source of great excitement for me. (Feel free to think “Man, she needs to get a life!”) I haven’t had a washing machine for a number of years. And before you have visions of a short, fat lady shuffling around like a demented grownup version of Pigpen from Peanuts, I HAVE been taking my clothes to a laundromat for the past eight years. Not fun. So I finally decided I’d had enough and bought this new washing machine. All was going well until I was preparing to hook it to the water source. There is this teeny tiny washer that must go inside the hose before you connect it. WHY they don’t put it in for you, I don’t know. Some plot concocted in China to provide entertainment for factory workers. I am certain there is a mini camera in the washing machine and when you drop said washer and have to look for it, voila, fun for the entire factory family.

I mean what could be more fun than watching a grown woman crawl around on the kitchen floor looking for the incredible shrinking washer? I swept the floor. I crawled every inch of it with a flashlight. I checked the dogs’ mouths, the cats’ mouths – NOTHING. It shrank into oblivion or dropped into the same black hole that swallows my keys, my insurance card, seventeen odd socks and my memory at least once a day. Of course I work in a place that is one stuttering pig shy of a full blow Looney Tunes. That could have something to do with my shrinking memory. What was I talking about?

 Oh yes! Finishing a book is a lot like looking for a shrinking washer. You get to a certain point and the entire plot just dries up like an ex-husband’s bank account when it’s time to pay alimony. Or your enthusiasm for the story withers away, like said ex-husband’s … well, you get the picture. Starting a book is easy. That story idea is a washer the size of a hoola hoop. (For the uninitiated a hoola hoop is a toy born in the 1960’s meant to make children exercise and  to make adults throw their back out while appearing to be in a full seizure or trying to get a spider off their body.) 

Then you get to the middle of your book and the Great Wall of China is erected around the plot.

 Your characters turn into teenagers.
Writer : “What’s wrong?”
Character : “Nothing.”
Writer : “Why aren’t you talking?”
Character : “Don’t know.”
Yes, teenagers are the reason I am glad all my kids have four legs and fur. I can spay and neuter them, put them on a leash, and they don’t need a car or a college education, and they usually don’t call home and say “Mom, I need bail money.”

So you’ve dropped the end of your book and you’re crawling around on the floor with a flashlight looking for it while the cat looks at you as if you’ve lost your mind. Oh! Look! Another story idea under the stove. I really need to sweep under there more often. Let’s face it you HAVE lost your mind. You’re a writer. You checked the crazy box on your application the minute you decided to write a book. Stick a fork in your butt. You are done!

So, how do you finish the book when you are fairly certain the book has finished you? How do you make yourself get up off the floor and decide to get your butt to Lowe’s and buy a new washer or do whatever you have to do to get to that holiest of holy places THE END?    


Carla Swafford said...

So funny and true.

I close my eyes and press SEND. Though I'm not sure if my agent appreciates it. LOL! :-)

By the way, with the picture of the spider, Naima won't be commenting this time. ;-)

Louisa Cornell said...

Oh no! I need to post a warning to Naima!

I had one get on me in the yard a few days ago and I almost threw my back out trying to shake it off. The dogs looked at me as if I'd lost my mind.

Ella Quinn - Romance Novelist said...

Let your character be teenagers. Just keep writing, something will spring fourth from your fingers. You can fix it during editing.

Louisa Cornell said...

Well you have certainly mastered the art of letting them be teenagers as you have written five or six absolutely fabulous books in a relatively short period of time!

That is one thing I have to learn is to just let it fly and worry about fixing it later.

Nancy S. Goodman said...

I cures a lot under my breath! And then set it aside for a little while. When I least expect it, something pops into my head

Sandy Owens said...

Hi Louisa,

Honestly, for me the middle has always been more hair tugging, "I'm gonna burn this stupid thing" just see if I don't. When that brick wall rears up, I highlight where I left off and skip ahead a little (one or two scenes). Usually, thankfully, when I return to that part that was giving me trouble, the words I needed are there, waiting for me.


Louisa Cornell said...

Cursing is always a good option, Nancy!

Collette Cameron said...

My first two books weren't an issue. This one isn't going quite so smoothly or fast.

That's a major bummer since my publisher emailed me this morning and she wants it now.

I need chocolate!

Louisa Cornell said...

I've done that before too, Sandra. Sometimes a scene further along can trigger something you need to put in first.

Louisa Cornell said...


Chocolate! Always a great solution. That and an editor who wants it NOW!

Suzanne Johnson said...

Loved this, Louisa! I giggled all the way through it. Oh, that ex-husband! LOL. I usually start envisioning my final scene somewhere around mid-book or earlier. I don't write it, but I jot it down on my (shhhh....cover your ears, pantsers) outline. The place I tend to get bogged is the middle.

Robin Delany said...

I push myself to the end by avoiding beginning something new. Once I get to the point where I've written the end in my mind, I always want to get into some other story, even if I haven't written the end. To fight that, I jot those ideas down and force myself to finish.
My problem is that I can edit 'til the end of time. I need to set a deadline because otherwise I could tinker forever.

Liese said...

When I get to that point (usually between 100-200), I just start listing things that could happen (including they jump off a cliff). After 10-20, there's something in there that will trigger something. Also, I LOVE Donald Maas's workbook. Basically, he asks, "What's the WORST thing that could happen to them?" then "What's worse than that?" and again, "What worse than that?" Again, something kicks in at that point!


Louisa Cornell said...

I do the same thing, Suzanne. Anything that comes to me about the last half or quarter of the book I write down on index cards so I can refer to it later when I am ready to write that part of the book.

Louisa Cornell said...

Like you, Robin, I can sometimes become distracted by the next shiny new story that crosses my mind. I have refrained from actually sitting down and writing it, but I do jot scenes or dialogue down on index cards for use when I get to that story.

And oh I feel your pain on the editing. I could revise and edit until the end of time. I am NEVER satisfied with my books. I need to set deadlines too and then send the book away and tell myself to leave it alone!

Louisa Cornell said...

I really like that idea, Liese! You never know what might come up. I'm going to try that. And I really need to get the Donald Maas books. (Ducks head) I haven't read any of them!

Chris Bailey said...

So funny! I have to recommend Suzanne Johnson's Quilting 101 class. Not only does Suzanne finish multiple really good books in a single year--she's willing to share exactly how she sets up to do it!

Even with a method, the second half of my middle tends to be idea-light. It's only by writing all the way from beginning to end that I can see the gaping holes in that section and start filling.