I've been having an interesting experience lately. No, it's a kind of uncomfortable experience. As Gentle Readers of this blog may be aware, I'm in the throes of trying to finish the last book in my Great Medieval Science Fiction Masterpiece With Neandertals. The trouble is, I can't. It's not that I don't know what the ending is going to be. I know perfectly well. Suffice it to say that it's Happy Ever After for Illg and Hardwin, the male protagonist. And they've gone through "hell and high water" getting there, so they deserve their HEA. The trouble is, I'm having trouble getting there.
So I went and told my troubles to one of the e-mail lists I'm on(a writer's list, naturally), and I got all sorts of good advice, the best of which was, basically "don't obsess about it. You'll get there, and if you fiddle around enough, you'll come up with something that works. I'm not exactly "obsessing" about this; I just keep adding material. Of course, this is a first draft of the third book, so I'm probably going to end up doing a bunch of cutting and rearranging as elements occur to me. Another problem, if you want to put it that way, is that I'm also revising the first draft of my first book, which is, in some ways easier, since I finally found a quickie source of a timeline I can work with. I was kind of "obsessing" about a timeline, because although this is science fiction, it's set in historical time, and I wanted to get the main events right. In my first draft, I discovered that I made some major goofs, because I didn't have a timeline! So I've corrected that. As a result, much of this first book has been drastically rewritten -- some events have been telescoped, but others have been changed in certain ways, partly because I changed the relationships of some of the characters, cut several characters in the first book that didn't "go anywhere", added at least three people that became much more important parts of the plotline(this, in addition to the actual, historical characters). A lot of this happened as a result of becoming better acquainted with my characters, yes, including several historical ones about whom only a little is really known(hint: some "historical accuracy purists" won't like this part, because I quite frankly made up things that at least seemed plausible, the way I worked out some of the characters). In any case, I've ended up concentrating more of my efforts on this first book, and as a result, I think it's much, much stronger than it was when I first wrote it.
Another good piece of advice I got was to step away from it for at least a while. I have one idea, for a prequel, which I'm going to start writing in November, for NaNoWriMo, just to see where it may go. There's another project that has just been sitting for a while, that's set in the near future, but is a Great Science Fiction Masterpiece With Neandertals, and shares at least some of the same backstory(my present epic is part of a history that only they know about). So even that is kind of related. That particular project is more of a Young Adult type thing, since it has a teenager protagonist.
However, none of these pieces of advice, which I fully intend to follow, really address the issue of The Ending and How to Get There. It has to end somewhere. I have a picture of how I want it to end, , with the "bad guys" getting their due and one person making a noble sacrifice< though this was previously against his character(I kind of provided a way for that to work, though), and of course, Happy Ever After for the protagonists. Still, they're not bad suggestions, and I've learned several things from my helpful writer correspondents. One of the things I've learned is, though I guess I always knew it, I'm a "big picture" kind of writer. I have a "large" idea -- an entire story line. Originally, the Invades trilogy was going to be one book, more a romance than an epic. It just didn't work out that way. The historical events around which I wove the story, had so many interesting characters, and so many dramatic events, it practically shouted to be told. So I'm telling it. But this is much harder work than I had anticipated, and now I'm sort of struggling. I don't want to give it up, yet I have to have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and they all have to cohere somehow.
I guess I'll just follow various pieces of advice I've been given, and see what works best for me. I've tried outlines and synopses, like some writers say you're "supposed" to, but they just don't work for me. The last time I tried that rout, the "synopsis" was 20 pages long, and this was just for one book!(not what I'm writing now).It was chapter by chapter, and I found as I wrote it, I couldn't stick to what I'd written. "Stuff" just kept popping up. At least now that I"m writing the Invaders trilogy, I'm more in control of this process, which is one reason I allowed some characters to "die" and other characters to become much more a part of the story. One of them became so important that he will be the main focus of a prequel, which is also full of very interesting and dramatic events and characters.
So, I'm still a writer, blocked. But quite frankly, I feel much better about it now.