Monday, April 25, 2011

And In the End...

Writing a novel is hard. There’s no getting around it. Trying to create words and sentences that flow into each other nicely, develop characters and plots, and maybe even create an entire new world? These are all really difficult, and it’s easy to forget about some things while writing.

Forgetting, however, is exactly what I want to talk about. I’ve been noticing lately that many authors will introduce a plot element or subplot at the beginning of the story, but they won’t come back to it again at the end. Other times, a character arc will start, but the character will end up right back where she started at the end of the novel. It’s frustrating for us to get caught up in a plot element in a partial, only to read the synopsis and find that it’s not mentioned after the first three chapters.

Here’s an extreme example. Let’s pretend that J.K. Rowling never wrote another Harry Potter book after Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. The sixth Harry Potter book ended the way it was written, with Harry getting ready to search for Horcruxes and fight Voldemort, but Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows never happened. It would have been monumentally frustrating (especially for someone who loves the Harry Potter books as much as I do) to have had over ten years of exposition leading to the final book and battle, only to have no battle at all.

What I’m trying to say is, as you’re proofreading your manuscripts, make sure that the plot and character elements introduced at the beginning don’t disappear from the rest of your stories. If a character is unemployed and looking for a job at the beginning of the story, don’t put her in the same position at the end – it makes the story itself feel pointless. We want to finish learning about your characters, find out whodunit or whether the guy will end up with the girl of his dreams. And we will – provided those endings are written.

Hope this helps! Good luck with your writing!



Nancy Christie said...

A very useful post--and one that I will refer to as I work on my second novel. The challenge I have run into on this one versus my first book is that what I thought was the storyline and related subplots, what I thought were the motivations of the lead character, weren't--which made for a lot of revising and redoing and looking for those loose threads that no longer tied into the fabric of the story. As new aspects surface, I find myself going back to the beginning and making changes to fit the new direction. I realize that creating a well-defined plot outline would have probably eliminated this, but then, it wouldn't have been quite so interesting!

Glynis Peters said...

Interesting post. During my rewrite, I noted something at the start of my ms and found a way of introducing it towards the end. It made a big difference to the flow of the storyline.

Putting the extra effort in reading over is worth the time. It is amazing what one finds.

elaine said...


Your comment is a true pearl of wisdom that all authors should heed. The biggest problem I see with submissions is authors' over-eagerness to get their work out before they've really taken the time to read it over and think about how their story really comes together. Most agents will only read something once, so it really serves authors well to take their time. Put aside the manuscript for a while then go back and read it again. I'm sure if every author were to do that it would be an eye-opening (and positive) experience.

Glynis Peters said...

Thank you, Elaine. I learned the hard way and let myself down. I submitted far too early. One kind agent pointed me in the right direction, and my story has changed. So much so, it changed genre slightly. The rejections I received were well deserved. Now I must find the courage to submit again.

One year of writing and over three of editing and a rewrite, taught me so much about the craft of writing a novel, that I feel it was not a waste of time.