Dear Plot Resolution: Write Yourself (or, The Fifteen Prolonged Stages of Finishing Your First Draft)

1. Realisation.

Ok. Finish dinner, sit down, keep writing.

Wait a minute. *turns notebook page frantically*. Wait a minute. I only have two more chapters to go. I could have this finished by the end of the week. It’s the light! The light at the end of the tunnel!

2. Excitement. 

TWO MORE CHAPTERS TO GO.

3. Panic. 

Shit. Shit shit shit. How the hell am I going to fit all of this into two more chapters? 

4. Extremely late brainstorming. 

I could kill a character. I should’ve killed a character. Six chapters ago. That would make this easier. Less loose ends to tie up now. Why are there so many loose ends?

5. Counterproductive revising.

There has to be something in here that doesn’t need to be. Go back. Go back and look for scenes, people, plot threads, all this crap I started with before I changed track in my head at the halfway mark and what the thing started off being about became an ill-conceived footnote and now it’s about something else.

Wait, what’s that? What did that character just say to his girlfriend? Why is that line in there? That means something. I had plans for that. What did I plan for that?

6. Wallowing. 

This is a directionless mess. I’ve written the sequel to Gigli. 

7. Half-assed pep talking.

But… the ending is pretty damn awesome. They’re not going to see it coming. No way are they going to see it coming. I didn’t even see it coming. At all. I didn’t plan it. That’s right, no planning. None. What.so.ever.

And you can tell when you read it, you unimaginative lummox. You think you’re being clever but EVERY READER’S GONNA KNOW YOU DIDN’T MEAN TO DO THAT.

8. Epiphany.

Oh. 

My. 

God. 

I can do that. I can do that. That will fit. That will work. There’s backstory for that. I already wrote that. I already wrote that without meaning to. I am a literary genius and one day my loyal bookish subjects will crawl through the litter-strewn aisles of whichever bookstores remain in the hope of basking in just a sentence of my superlative-laden writing glow.

9. Motivation.

This is good. No, this is good. Just vomit it all onto the page, like everyone says. One word after the other. Vomit, vomit, vomit. Leave the rest for the editing process.

10. Despair. 

… The editing process.

There’s going to be a lot to cover then. Too much. Way too much for anyone to ever take it seriously. But am I supposed to spend twenty years on the same manuscript in the hope of making it a publisher’s wet dream? No, no way. That’s not necessary. It depends on the person. On the individual office worker who reads it off the bat. CS Lewis got rejected over 800 times before he was published. Now look at him. 

11. Mantra making.

C.S. LEW-IS!

C.S. LEW-IS!

12. Indignation. 

This is ridiculous. I’ve written this in my head 1,847 times. Putting it on the page is so redundant. Surely I can leave a note for the publisher. “Call me when you get to here and I’ll explain the rest”.

Now I’m bored. This is boring. I’m bored with it. And if I’m bored with it when I created it, the reader… is going to hate it.  

13. Hysteria (in which your manuscript gains the only kind of voice you didn’t want)

Two chapters. Ha! May as well be ten. YOU’RE NEVER GONNA FINISH ME.

14. Stubbornness.

I control you, manuscript, and I don’t have to take this. Whether I meant to or not, whether I meticulously planned it or embraced serendipity, everything in you came out of my head. Every word, every character, every structural element, every twist and turn and now, manuscript, now I can finish you if I want to, just like I made you because I wanted to, and just like I will share you, one day, soon, because I want to. 

15. Happy sadness.

Soon. Soon this will be over. It’ll be like saying goodbye to friends. Which is stupid because the people I’ve carefully crafted over the past 18 months aren’t real. But I’ve spent the past 18 months carefully crafting them. They seem real. To me, if no one else. And now that I’ve made it this far, it’s as if I have to pile them all on a bus and wave from my car and try not to cry while I send them away. But perhaps, wherever they’re going to, someone might love them as much as I did. 

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2 thoughts on “Dear Plot Resolution: Write Yourself (or, The Fifteen Prolonged Stages of Finishing Your First Draft)

  1. This is fantastic, Liz. I laughed. I may have cried. I think my favourite part is, “Putting it on the page is so redundant.” Yep, we’re all brilliant in our heads. This writing it down stuff is just tiresome. And primitive, too. When the future arrives, they’ll do away with that step.

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    • Thanks Meg! Glad you got a giggle out of it. Here’s hoping that step is made redundant as soon as possible. Pretty sure it saves time on both sides if all you have to do is *explain* the story to someone. Everyone wins.

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