writing

Hello, 2017

In the minutes I had to spare for Twitter last night, I saw a familiar parade of New Year’s posts: of people wanting to set 2016 on fire; of authors thanking friends, readers and colleagues; of writing plans outlined; of personal goals assessed.

And in my head was that annoying little voice, telling me I was supposed to do this because that’s what authors are supposed to do.

We see these posts every year, and they tend to fall into broad categories:

The grateful: Those listing name after name of colleagues, fellow authors, readers, editors and other who brought value to their lives, with comments ranging from fine details of the contributions these people made to key smashes. They were kind, thoughtful, and occasionally sounded a bit like Academy Award acceptance speeches.

The goal-oriented: Those writing a laundry list of the books—many books, in some cases—that they planned to write in 2017. Good god, this can give a girl a complex. I’m writing a short story this year, and probably nothing else. I have ideas in the early stages of development, so it may be awhile.

The aggrieved: Those listing the things that pissed them off in 2016—and there was plenty to get cheesed off about last year.  Their lists amounted to an often well-deserved “hell no,” and a vow of how they would change things in 2017.

The remorseful: Not going to lie, I didn’t see a lot of these this year.

And of course, there are the year-in-review posts. They aren’t limited to major media. Everyone has a Top Ten, whether they realize it or not. Some have a Top Hundred, which often repeat their top ten in multiple forms.

The thing is, after a while, they tend to blur together in the cacophony of year-end lists from pundits, critics, columnists and bloggers, and it reminds me why I tend to ignore that annoying little voice in my head.

I could legitimately see myself writing all of those New Year’s lists, of course. I’m goal-oriented, pushing myself to write new things from what I hope are new angles. I’m aggrieved, over things things both public (rating from the state of American politics and to the Dodgers’ bullpen) and very private, but years in public relations has taught me to choose my public battles carefully. It doesn’t mean you don’t take them on, you just make sure that you make them count.

I am remorseful for having judged some authors on their social media personas and even on their cover art rather than on their work. I'm going to work on changing that. Never judge a book by its cover, in every sense of the expression. And I am deeply grateful, not only to Publishers Weekly for naming Luchador one of its Best Books of 2016, but to the people who helped and supported me by reading it, and giving me reasoned, professional criticism where necessary and praise when earned.

But just because it’s what everyone else is doing doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right move for you. That’s not in any way to mean that these posts don’t have interesting content, or that it’s not fun to see friends squee over each others’ work. It’s just that the creatives of the world shouldn’t feel obligated to do a thing simply because it is what everyone else is doing. 

And while I’ve never believed in New Year’s resolutions, it forced me to realize what mine have been, and continue to be.

I promise—to my editors, to my readers, to my business partners, to my loved ones, and most importantly, to myself—to be true to who I am, and to make certain that it includes challenging myself to grow in how I see and experience the world, as well as how I represent it.

I’ve never been a writer who likes to chase trends. I don’t believe in forcing myself to be so prolific that I drive myself to a quick burnout. I write because I learn from it, and get joy from it, and I share it when I feel I have something worth sharing. And I actively remind myself not to let voices—whether they are in my head or in my timeline—get me down.

So 2017, bring it on. I may not write five books this year—or even one—but I’ll work my ass off to make sure that whatever I do is authentic.

 

Done... maybe.

My review and edit on the proofread is done and filed as of just a few minutes ago. Many revisions, several additions. I'm exhausted and delighted. There will no doubt be some things to review and revise, but the biggest hurdle is cleared.

I now want to sleep for a week, but I'll opt for curling up with a glass of white Bordeaux in my big rocking chair. 

Seven Extremely Good Reasons to Write the Ending First

amandaonwriting:

If you are writing for fun, and if you don’t want any help, please write any way that works for you. I am not trying to convert you to writing with a plan. It truly does not matter to me how you write. However, if you are struggling to finish a book that makes sense, I would love you to carry on reading.

Why should you do it?

When I used to teach Writers Write regularly, one of the first things I asked students was: How does your story end? I did this for two reasons. Firstly, as much as some people love the idea of working with meandering storylines, it has been my experience that those writers seldom finish writing a coherent book. Secondly, most people who go to workshops or sign up for courses are truly looking for help, and I’ve learned that the best way to succeed in anything in life is to have a plan. Successful people will tell you that you need to know where you’re going before you begin.

Smell the roses

This does not mean that you can’t take time to smell the roses, or explore hidden paths along the way. It simply means that you always have a lifeline and when you get lost, it will be easier for you to find your way back again. Remember that readers like destinations. They love beginnings, middles, and endings. Why do you think fans are terrified that George R.R. Martin will die before he finishes A Song of Fire and Ice? They want to know how the story ends. 

Here are seven reasons why I suggest you write your ending first.

  1. If you know who the characters are at the end of the story, you will know how much you should reveal about them at the beginning. 
  2. You will be forced out of the ‘backstory hell’ that beginner writers inhabit and into the story the reader wants to read.
  3. Hindsight is an amazing thing. We all know how different life seems when we’re looking back. We can often tell where a problem began. We think about the ‘what ifs’ with the gift of hindsight. You can use this to your advantage in fiction writing.
  4. You will have something to work towards. Instead of aimlessly writing and hoping for the muse to show you the way, you will be able to pull the characters’ strings and write the words they need to get them from the beginning through the middle to the end.
  5. Plotting from the ending backwards saves you so much time because you will leave out stuff that isn’t meant to be there. You will not have to muddle through an overwritten first draft.
  6. Writing the end forces most of us out of our comfort zones. We have to confront the reality of what we are doing. It might not be as romantic as flailing around like a helpless maiden, but if you want writing to be your profession, it’s good to make the outcome visible. This is a way to show yourself that you are serious. The end gives you a goal to work towards.
  7. The ending is as important as the beginning. Good beginnings get people to read your first book. Great endings get readers to buy your second book.

There are a handful of famous authors, like Stephen King and George R.R. Martin, who say they don’t plot. I think they just don’t realise they are those rare authors – natural born storytellers, and that plotting is instinctive for them. I have interviewed many successfully published authors and I can revel that the majority of them do believe in plotting. They outline, in varying degrees, before they begin. And yes, most of them know what their ending will be. Why don’t you try it? What have you got to lose?

I truly hope this helps you write, and finish, your book.

by Amanda Patterson

If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy 10 (Amazingly Simple) Tips to Get You Back on The Writing Track and The Author’s Promise- two things every writer should do. You could also read The Top 10 Tips for Plotting and Finishing a Book.

I’ve been doing this to one degree or another since I was a reporter. I write the beginning, then the end, then go back and story telling the story that fells between those two points. It’s not for everyone, but it sure helps me understand where I started and where I’m ultimately headed.