As I approach the end of my current WIP's first draft, I can't help but feel as though I have been sprinting through the scenes toward the final page. Part of that is due to the whirl of character activity and the rush of events in the story itself (and--for those familiar with my work--all the killing going on). But part of it is just me, hurrying my way through the writing. Last night Mighty Reader told me that I was moving so quickly just so I'd be done with this first draft. I told her she was wrong, but of course she's right. I have been hurrying just for the sake of hurrying, or for the sake of my self-imposed end-of-September deadline. Hell, if I really tried, I could finish the book up in a couple of hours tonight. There aren't that many actual events left to narrate. The trouble is, it would be a crappy, rushed narrative.
I look at some of the scenes wrote this week and I realize that they were not much more than sketches of scenes. A final act that I thought would take 10,000 words to tell looked like it was going to be written in more like 4,000 words. That's not economy of style, but stinginess with the narrative elements. I felt less like a writer of careful prose than a guy running down the aisles at the supermarket, throwing ingredients into the cart and promising you a good meal at some point down the road. That's no way to write a novel. Or to feed a dinner guest.
During the last few Designated Writing Periods (that is, lunch breaks) I did not move forward with the story. What I did instead was go back into the last scenes I wrote and fleshed them out more, slowing them down and beefing them up, putting in things to ratchet up the tension and madness of the story. I've thought of a nice event (a handy bit of violence, as it happens) that will fit neatly into the end of one scene, an event that will boost the tension and conflict and will also manage to dramatize the change in one of my character's personalities. If I had not stopped to consider the idea that I'm moving too fast, that I am presenting only the bones of the story in an effort to simply Get To The Last Damned Page of the Novel as fast as I can, I would not have had any of the cool ideas I'm now working into the story. So it's all win, and maybe I would've fixed this sketchy finale in the revision stage, but maybe I wouldn't have and then my agent would be saying, "I liked it until the end, and then it got sort of suck, Mr. Bailey."
I long to print the final pages of this MS, place my hands on the stack of paper and say, "Done! Done! Bring me cigars and champagne!" But I want to be done writing, not just done typing. If you know what I mean. So is it just me, or do the rest of you run headlong through the endings of your first drafts as if you were escaping a house on fire?
Got stories? Share them! Talk about the final stages of a first draft, no matter what the experience is like. It will be educational for everyone, I promise.