Am at sixty thousand words with this YA romance, and I’m experiencing a terror that I had heard about but hadn’t quite believed was real: third act problems.
That’s when you get all the way to the two thirds mark and maneuver all the pieces into place, and then you’re like, well shit, how do I end this book?
I hadn’t quite believed this was a thing, because generally speaking, the number of possible endings gets smaller and smaller as you write a book. And by the time you reach the end, you’ve only got two or three viable options, and probably you’ve long since decided which of those you want. Because of that, almost all my novels have accelerated as I got closer to the finish line, often getting to the point where I finish the book without any effort at all. For instance, I wrote the third act of Enter Title Here in one mammoth twelve hour day of writing in which I put down 14,400 words.
But this novel less plot-driven and more character-driven, and I hadn’t fully envisioned the ways in which this complicates the third act. I know exactly what I want the characters to do. The lovers need to break up and then get back together. And the protagonist needs to have a decisive final break with his former best friend. And I know, generally speaking, the reasons why they do those things. But all the proximate plot stuff–where they are, what leads to what, etc–is up in the air.
That’s a problem I’ve faced a fair bit with this book, and each time I’ve solved it by going back to the characters and thinking about what each one would do at this moment in time. This is not a typical thing for me. Normally I operate from a plot-level and try to think of some sort of sensational event. But in this book, the sensationalism rings false. In fact, most of the times I’ve been stuck it’s because I had my heart set on some big event, and I kept trying to write my way towards it, only to realize that I needed to constrain my book and make it smaller and more personal.
Which makes me think that the ending of this book is going to be different from any ending I’ve ever written before. Smaller. Less final. More open-ended.
But on the other hand I want to avoid anti-climax. Although the events might not be as big as in a plot-driven book, the emotions still need to be huge. So it’s a tough thing.
I’ll get there eventually though.