The Last Bit of Longest Road.

I’ve been doing a lot of driving lately and I’ve come to realize that the journey home is ALWAYS longer than the journey to which ever destination you are travelling. The last couple of miles seems to stretch in front of you, pulling seconds into minutes and making you feel as if Einstein had spoken up too soon when he spoke about relativity (and he should really just have spend some time in traffic to think it over). Also, as it is, the moment you think you’re home free, you find yourself stuck in traffic. Bumper to bumper.

Writing is a lot like this, things go smoothly for the first bit of your journey and then, as you turn to home to finish off those last couple of chapters, things slow down. You find yourself swerving to avoid plot holes, (note to my international readers – South Africa is NOTORIOUS for its TERRIBLE road conditions. Pot holes aren’t fixed. They are ignored. And used to hide elephants in) or stuck with a bunch of personal traffic that piles up around you. You’re at a stage where you can’t remember your whole journey in detail, only knowing that you set out from somewhere and you wanted to see a couple of things along the road which sometimes you never got round to. You think that you know the way to the end of your book, but then due to word works and plot twists, you realize that you need to re-plan your trip and find an alternative route.

And the irony is that getting to the end of your destination is such a VITAL part of the trip. You have to make sure that you saw everything you wanted to see, did everything you wanted to do and that your passengers, the readers, enjoyed the journey (and didn’t get too carsick…). It’s important that they come back for another trip.

I’m in that final stage with one of my stories, where I have 5000, maybe 10,000 words left in a 110,000 word journey that I’ve worked on for almost two years. I always find myself slowing down towards the end, chewing over chapters, struggling to pull my strings together. It essence it shouldn’t be hard because I keep my plots fairly simple. But – my endings are always hard.
I think part of it comes with the regret of ending this particular journey. You as an author want to hold on just that little bit longer, (in my case, preserve my character’s sanity for just a little bit longer before I throw another horrible twist at them), enjoy the last bit of scenery. But, the truth might be that your readers can’t wait to reach the end.

It’s about finding balance and making that last bit of the trip memorable.

I do a few things to make my journey a little bit easier.

  1. I take notes in the beginning. Despite the fact that I’m notoriously bad at planning, I’ve learned the value of paper above memory. I always think that I’ll remember where I want to take my stories but somehow, the best details always slip by me. So. Stick it notes. They work.
  2. If I’m planning a disaster (to be corrected in a sequel) I do try to warn my readers. Or, not warn them per say, but put in little check points to which they can fall back on and say: oh heck – should’ve seen this coming. It eases the impact of a world shattering end (which I am very fond of as a writer).
  3. I try and read through the whole story at least once before finishing it off. This way, I remember small things that I might have wanted to wrap up but didn’t. They go on their own set of stick it notes and will be addressed in the next book.

The end of a story is so important. It is the bit in the book that can really make or break your plot. So, pay attention to it. Take that alternative route if you need to, but don’t make the journey too long. Discipline yourself and – if you are in that last stretch and a series of unfinished business pops up, rather try to deal with it in the next book (if the nature of the problems allow it naturally) because your readers aren’t stupid and are just as anxious to see the end as you are.

And sad. J

But there will always be more. 😉

Thank you.

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One thought on “The Last Bit of Longest Road.

  1. Tiffany October 28, 2010 / 7:28 am

    Thanks Alyss – that’s really good advice!

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