I have been pretty obsessed with my third work in progress, Mark of the Pterren, this month. The book is divided into three parts, and my author-life has been consumed by writing and editing Part II. Which means I’ve also been obsessed with figuring out how the book ends, as an author can’t pen a great middle section without knowing what’s important to the plot.
You would think writers “kind of know” how a book ends, and maybe some writers do. Or maybe, some projects lend themselves better to outlines than others.
Because I have learned how to make outlines for my novels. I wrote one for my second book. I have one ready for my fourth book. Sometimes I daydream about the outline for my fifth book.
Mark of the Pterren just defies every outline I make for it, and I’ve made several. I keep them on dozens of loose sheets of notebook paper, in a stack on my bookshelf, but no matter how hard I work on these outlines, they end up only charting where I’ve been, not where I’m going. The story itself keeps racing ahead, in crazy directions, and I have to catch up. I feel like Jean-Luc Picard in some rickety little spacecraft, chasing a self-controlled U.S.S. Enterprise across the universe. Waving my fist in futility and shouting, “What are you doing? You are my ship! My ship! Where are you going?? Get back here!!”
This is like me being all menacing while I chase down my Enterprise.
Cause dang, yo. That thing is fast.
And lo and behold, I actually caught up to the Enterprise this month! Twice!! Once last weekend, and once this weekend. I have boarded my ship twice in a week’s time!
So take that, story! I’ll show you to run away like a psycho!
Which means I’m talking to my subconscious again. Like my subconscious gives a damn what I think or what I say. Like anyone’s subconscious does.
But it still feels good to catch a glimpse of the inside of the ship. Even if those glimpses are rare.
And fortunately, due to all of my chasing this month, and those glimpses I caught, I gained enough knowledge to write a 4-page synopsis, which tells the reader the entire plot and ending for the whole novel. This synopsis is for the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Contest this year. The deadline is June 1. I have to submit the first twenty pages of the book (well, in this case, I’m submitting 18 pages, which is the entire first chapter when it’s put into Courier New font) along with the 4-page synopsis.
As I started working on this, I happened to read a blog post by an author who was bitterly complaining about how much work her 200,000-word manuscript was to write.
I started laughing so hard. Then I checked my word count for Pterren, which has 342,000 words. It’ll clock in at 425,000 words or so when it’s done. That’s the length of War and Peace.
But I condensed 425,000 (unfinished) words into 4 pages of synopsis for the contest this weekend. And it turned out awesome! Even more so because the most powerful antagonist in the story is introduced in Chapter One, something I didn’t even know until I caught up to the Enterprise this weekend. (!!!)
This is me now:
Because it doesn’t even matter to me anymore whether I win contests or not, whether I ever have a short story published in Glimmer Train or not, whether I even make any money on my work or not. When I visit inside of my brain, and take stock of my housekeeping duties up there in my cranium, author-me has two concerns:
1. Do you know what you are doing? (Answer: uhhhh, sometimes?)
2. Do the people who read this stuff even like it? (Answer: YES. There are people who actually like this book!)
I won’t have the money to publish Mark of the Pterren as a trilogy. I can already hear the haters who are gonna be all bent out of shape about that.
But I don’t even care. Awesome people are still gonna read this War and Peace book. And it’s gonna be epic. It’s gonna be the best book I have written. Better than Wolves, better than Love and Loans, Mark of the Pterren is a totally badass story. Even if it stresses me the F out so much. All those worthless outlines, all those hours upon hours of turmoil and racing after my ship through the galaxies. I still have faith and more faith that everything will be so worth it in the end. I have found my team and my team is Team Win and I am playing this game till it ends. Best game ever.