I’m of the belief that one of the hardest things to do, in any endeavor, is to finish (much less finish well). History is littered with examples of people who set out on some great adventure, only to either go down in flames or simply succomb to futility. To be sure, there are times when quitting is not only wise but necessary. I’ve been there personally. Other times, though, people decide the effort isn’t worth it … only to struggle with remorse later on.
This is certainly true of writers. Many a soul have set out to write the Next Great Novel, but were unable, for one reason or another, to complete it. I understand this challenge, because my writing odyssey began long ago and was marked by many a pauses, as I grew and learned in the craft. Yet, despite the hiccups along the way, for me this month marks the closing, not just of a single book, but of an entire trilogy.
It’s been a wild ride.
Writing a book entails, in my experience, two major challenges: energy and logistics. The energy just comes from the willingness to pound out the words, the determination to go out there, get the story on the page, and get it done. This month, November, is celebrated as a time to crank out a novel, and while I don’t participate (because of how my brain operates) in what is known as National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, I think the idea of really bearing down on the energy is a great idea.
Like energy, logistics are also important. Every novel is at once a development of plot and a development of characters, and making them both happen in a way that you can feel good about is a bit like trying to put together two separate 5000-piece puzzles that will fit together with each other when they’re done. It’s easy, even with the best writers, for one of those elements to be less developed than the other, and a book idea can stall out when either plot or characters — or perhaps even both — just aren’t playing the way the writer hoped they would.
When I decided to write a trilogy, I amplified the challenges of both energy and logistics. I knew that, in committing to a three-book contract, that I was committing to put out enough energy to generate about 300,000 words of science fiction. I also knew that I was committing to putting together three books that would develop plotlines and characters, not just inside those books, but across a larger story arc. Some very famous writers have set out to write a trilogy, only to be effectively written into a corner by the time book 3 rolls around.
The one thing I had going for me: I wrote the ending for book 3 very early on in the process. I knew, even as I was writing Edge of Oblivion, how I wanted Through Chaos to end. In puzzle terms, I’d filled in the outer border of the thing, even if I was still working on how I was going to get there, particularly in the bridge novel, Into the Void. Making the parts in between fit together was both a steep challenge — complete with rewritten chapters and writing pauses while I contemplated how to make it all happen — and a great joy, once it finally clicked in my mind.
Anyone who reads the last words of Through Chaos, I hope, will fully appreciate that.