Finisher's Momentum

For me, there are two places in the writing of a novel where I feel true momentum. The first one is at the beginning–when the idea is still shiny and new, and every trip back to the story is a new adventure, and I feel absolutely certain that this will be the most brilliant piece I’ve ever written. It’s like being in love, and I am blind to the story’s faults or the frustrations that are sure to crop up, should this relationship continue (luckily, I have a writers’ group to bring me gently back to reality during this phase).

I muddle through the middle, with moments of brilliance and moments of agony. But the second real burst of momentum comes right near the end — when the end is not only within sight, but within reach, and when I know that every word I write tumbles me closer to those magical, invisible words (because no one really writes The End at the end of their work anymore). But usually before I get to that point, I have to make a slow, arduous, journey up a mountain of doubts, where I curse the day this story idea occurred to me with each fresh blister on my heels and palms. All along, I’m grumbling, “All this work had better be worth it. That view from the top had better be spectacular.”

And then I start imagining all the possible vistas I will encounter when I arrive at the top. Somehow, none of them seem beautiful enough to make all the work worth it. At this point, I usually stop and rest for a while, convinced that I can’t make it those final few steps to the top.

But then, one day, I get tired of resting. And I start moving again.

That’s when I somehow end up at the top without even trying. And although the view isn’t always beautiful, there is that wonderful moment when, at the very least, it’s clear.

About a week and a half ago, I found myself making notes at the end of my writing session about how the next few scenes would play out. I kept adding one more idea, then another. Soon, my notes became a step-by-step, sentence-by-sentence map to the end. All that was left was to follow that map. And guess what? It’s all downhill.