Months and months of showing up at my computer are paying off. The end is in sight! I’ve followed the outline for my WIP—more or less—throughout the first draft. Still, and this happens every single time, getting to the end is like wrestling an octopus into a mayonnaise jar.
I’m so immersed in the story that I’ve lost sight of the big picture. Where is this story headed? There are loose ends whipping around in my head, dropped story-lines littering the plot, and characters who have gone AWOL. Will the story ever end?
I have a deadline, for goodness' sake.
A FIRM deadline.
No time to panic. Take a step back— think and pray.
To regain my equilibrium with the story, I must remember where I’ve traveled in my story world. I’m a visual thinker. And so, I need to see the story. To do this, I go back through the manuscript, scene by scene to take notes on what happens. It’s laborious, arguably anal, but I create a new outline with color-coded scenes for the POV character and each character in the scene description is highlighted with their own color. It’s very pretty, very map-like.
Now, to get that octopus into the mayonnaise jar…I print out my colorful chart. I can see where one character is too dominant or where another has been forgotten. I note storylines I’ve left dangling. Weak motivations become obvious. Pretty scenes that don’t move the story along stick out like, well, a sore tentacle.
It’s tempting to charge ahead, but this is a time of serious prayer for me. Where my characters end up reflects my view of who God is and how he loves and interacts with his creation. I want to get this right. Once I’ve prayed and bounced ideas around with people I trust—poor hubby; he’s so handy—I build a new ending (and shore up mid-story issues), making sure there is resolution and a few questions left for the reader to wrestle. After all, I wouldn’t want to deny them the challenge of swimming with an octopus.
How do you keep track of the big picture of your novel? Do you find resolving all of the plot lines messy? Do you know the ending of your novel before you begin?