Rushing

So earlier today, I had two different topics in mind for this post. Do you think I can remember either one now? One was something about characters. The other … haven’t got a clue.

All I can think about is Efrathah. For those who might not know, Efrathah is the land of my fantasy world, and it is on my mind because I’ve been working on some chapter late in the final book.

I can’t give you the number because I’ve decided to split this book into two, but I won’t do that until I have it all into the computer. As it stands now, this is chapter 47 and I’m on manuscript page 445. How many words is it? I was at 100,000 thirteen chapters ago. And the thing is, I still have six more chapters to go, not counting the one I’m on. Yep, I needed to split this book. So no longer am I working on a trilogy. It’s a quatrain. I like the way that sounds better than quartet.

Anyway, what does any of this have to do with rushing. When I first joined a critique group, one of the writers, now a published author, would have these wonderful manuscripts, rich with detail so that you felt like you were standing beside the characters, witnessing it all first hand. Until the end. Then for some unknown reason, she’d start to rush. Scenes were no longer vivid. The climax seemed sloppy. It was a mystery to me

But lo and behold, as I dove into work on this current problematic chapter of The Battle for the Throne, I realize when I wrote the rough draft, I rushed it. I actually have two beginnings, and I never took time to resolve them. That would be for later, I’m sure I thought. Well, now is later, and I’m stuck trying to pull loose ends together.

What I will probably end up doing is writing an entirely new scene to bring some sense to this part of the story.

But here’s the question. How many stories are too rushed in the end and there’s no one around to hold up a slow sign? I doubt if I would have realized the problem in my work if I hadn’t seen this rushing in the manuscripts of my crit partner. But now that I’m aware of it, I’ve spotted it in several published works, and now in my own writing.

What’s the rush, you might wonder. By “rushing” I mean some actions aren’t properly motivated, some settings aren’t clearly drawn, some internal monologue is too prescriptive, some scenes are incomplete. The overall feel is that there are holes. Holes in the plot or in the character motivation. Things begin to feel a little contrived because there are too many coincidences.

I don’t pretend to understand why the rush. I only know I’m paying for it now because I’m having to fill in all those gaps during this rewrite. Here’s where I wish I had an editor who would just tell me what to do. 😉

Published in: on September 10, 2008 at 2:12 pm  Comments (13)  
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13 Comments

  1. Since I’m ultra-sensitive about my word counts–since five out of the seven are lonnnggg by today’s standards (but they’re really not 🙂 )–what it feels like to me is that the author just gives up on the story. Not consciously exactly, but decides the word count makes it a necessity to end the story NOW. It’s not subtle. It feels like a slap. And, yes, I’ve read a couple lately which did just that–probably around the 85,001 or 95,001 word counts. JMO.

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  2. I’ve also heard a series of four called a “quadrology.” 🙂

    Yeah, a lot of stories have the rushed ending due to word count limits. I don’t blame the limit, though. Rather, the author didn’t pace their story accordingly.

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  3. Actually, the word count plus deadline can easily equal a rushed ending. Pacing is a wonderful thing, but even with an outline, things don’t turn out the way you first intended. I really don’t like the fact that some publishers give authors a hard word count. That defies logic from the creative point of view. A range is fine. Your novel must fall between 85,000-100,000 words. No worries. But to say, 90,000 and no more is very confining. Deadlines can also steal quality from a novel, and not just the ending. If you are a full time author, writing a “good” book in 3-4 months is doable. But most of us (even CBA bestsellers) can’t afford to be full time authors. I’ve been a best seller three times, and there’s no way I can afford to quit my teaching job. lol. It’s not even close. So when a publisher gives you a very short deadline, quality will always be sacrificed. And many times, it’s the ending that suffers the most.

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  4. By the way, speaking of rushed endings: have you ever read Sphere by Michael Crichton? Holy cow, the last 30 pages…what was that? I would bet my next royalty check that his publisher rushed him. That was one disappointing ending.

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  5. Kameron, a story tells itself. Word count isn’t the end-all cure-all for producing a good story. I prefer to read long novels. Nowadays a “long” novel is usually found in fantasy or thriller genres. The shorter novels do not hold the detail I want in a book. Some shorter novels have poor pacing because the stories feel chopped. It has absolutely nothing to do with pacing. It has everything to do with story.

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  6. What’s worse than rushing the ending is rushing long before you get there. I’m only a third of the way through my book and I turned in a chapter this week to the crit group and it was universally hated. Every last one of my partners told me that they felt the heroine had just checked out of the story.

    I knew exactly where she was and what she was thinking but they couldn’t figure out what she wanted and even where she was, most of the time. =) Bummer. But thank God for crit groups.

    Why the rush? I know exactly why I do it. I rush when I have to get something in–deadline–and I haven’t had time to sit and dream the scene out in my head. I haven’t taken the time to really see the scene through my character’s eyes so it comes out as more a summary of events than an unfolding of events.

    So I’m echoing what others are saying–deadlines, lack of time. These are the enemies of richly painted scenes, I believe.

    Hey, while I’m here, may I put in a plug for a free fantasy book at my site? I’m having a contest for a signed ARC of J Scott Savage’s Farworld: Water Keep–a middle grade fantasy. Go to my blog if you want to play. Thanks.

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  7. Nicole, I was in no way endorsing word counts as a tool for producing a good story. In fact, I was faulting them for producing rushed endings. I’d agree with Mr. Batson that deadlines also contribute. I experienced both writing Maiden of Pain as a work-for-hire, though I came in about eight thousand words under the limit, so had room to wiggle there.

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  8. My apologies, Kameron. I see your point.

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  9. This is an interesting discussion, but I have to throw a monkey wrench into the works. I’m not under deadline. Neither was my crit partner who routinely rushed her endings.

    Quite obviously I’m also not worried about word count either. I don’t know if my friend was.

    Certainly I can see how a deadline would affect an ending. Goodness—I rushed enough newspaper articles to realize how just the pressure of the deadline can affect the writing.

    But I’m wondering if there isn’t another something. I feel somewhat impatient, the closer I get to being done. Why is that? Right when I need to focus the most, I want to think about the next thing. Or the Big Revision. Which of course can’t happen until this draft gets into the computer.

    I suppose there’s no way to know for pubbed authors because there will be that deadline thing.

    Anyway, thanks to each of you for added you voice to the conversation.

    Becky

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  10. are you sure the crit partner wasn’t under deadline? If it was the early crit group I’m thinking of there was a deadline. A chapter a week.

    I’m in a crit group now that requires a chapter a week. So I’m under deadline. And if I don’t have a chapter, I have to rush something to press.

    Yes, thinking of the next big thing can also rush you. And it did her, if I know who you’re talking about. We tire of the book we’ve been working on and want to move on to our new ideas.

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  11. I had a year to work on Maiden. That’s unusual in work-for-hire, and while I was thankful for the extra time–it being my first novel–I was certainly ready to put the story to rest as I wrote the ending. It was a struggle not to rush through it.

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  12. Sally, I’m pretty sure you do know who I’m talking about, and you’re right about the deadline. However, the deadline was also in place in all those earlier chapters that were so detail, so vivid.

    The tiring of the book we’re working on isn’t really my problem, I don’t think. I’m guessing here, but what I think happens for me, I get excited to get to the Big Crisis and want to rush past other things that must be shown in order to make the end really work. (And make the resolution plausible). Jury’s still out. Though I’m on book four, this is the first story ending I’ve had to deal with.

    Becky

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  13. Kameron,

    Work for hire! Wow! That might make a big difference. Does it still feel like your story? I can see how it might be tempting to rush a project like that so you can get back to your own.

    I wish more authors would take a year, or more even. There are just so many things we can see if we set a work aside for a while and come back to it with fresh eyes. But few pubbed author seem to have that luxury.

    Becky

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