This week's questions come from Brenda!
1) Either before or during -- writing a novel, how do you know when to end it ?
2) Are you told how many pages or words to write, a limit so to speak (by your Editor or Publisher) ? Like, let's say in your very next book -- could you possibly write 1,000 pages "if" you wanted to ?
3) And, when you are writing the conclusion ... do you yourself find it difficult to stop?
Let me answer number 2 first. Yes, I'm told by my publisher how many words they expect my novel to be. Generally for a full length fiction title, they expect anywhere from 80,000 - 100,000 words. However I'm told I should shoot for 100,000 words. For many authors, this is difficult to reach, but for some reason, I ALWAYS go over that amount. I don't have a single novel that is at or below 100K. Some of my bigger ones are around 115-120K words.
So, do I know when to end the story? Yes and No. Before I even start writing, I have a general idea of the ending of the book. I know my characters, I have ideas of what they are going to go through (or what I'm going to put them through! *Evil smirk*). I know the lessons they will learn, and how the story will end. Of course in a romance, part of that ending has to involve the hero and heroine ending up together. Which brings me to a pet peeve of mine: Reviewers who claim my books have a predictable ending! Like, Duh. You think? Grrrr. Anyway, I digress.
The real challenge lies in filling in the gaps from the beginning of the story to the end while making the word count come out to around 100K. The best way to do this is to have check points, which are certain events or crises that you pre-plan. For example,
- In the beginning of the novel you show the hero and heroine in their natural worlds and then have the first crises which gets them into the action/adventure/problem.
- Somewhere in the middle from the beginning to the halfway point, you have another major event that makes things even worse.
- Then in the middle of the book, another catastrophe that makes the situation even more dire.
- About half way from the middle to the end, the final crises occurs which is a point of no return situation where the hero or heroine must take a step and preform some action from which they know they can never go back.
- Then the ending which wraps everything up.
I normally have more than just 4 crises, but these are the main ones.
Let me just say that I hate formulas and typically don't use them, but if I lay out the crises I want my protagonists to face in the order I want them to face them in, then I can check my word count when I reach each one to make sure I'm on track.
Anyway, cool story about my very first book, The Redemption. When I wrote it, I had NO IDEA how long a novel should be. I especially had no idea how many words a publisher expected. I was just answering God's call to write a story about a Christian pirate. Guess how many words I ended up with? 106,000. Yup. God was looking out for me.
From the looks of things, it seems my current novel, Elusive Hope, is going to be a bit over 100K.
Last but not least, do I find it difficult to end the story? Am I too connected to the characters and their lives to say Good-bye? Yes. Absolutely. You cannot imagine how close I become to my characters. I'm in their heads every day, thinking their thoughts, experiencing their fears, their heartaches, worries. They become my nearest and dearest friends. I love to see them happy in the end but saying good bye is difficult. I normally take a couple weeks off to recover and get them out of my head before I can write anything else. But they never truly leave me. Each character is added to my group of best friends that I carry around with me wherever I go.
That's why we authors are so crazy!