One of the many projects I’ve been busy with lately has been trying to do some retro-planning for my completed manuscript Pecan Hill. I’ve found it to be a frustrating and joy-sapping exercise to say the least. If I could compare it to anything, it would probably be like building a tent. You put the tent out and then have to put the tent poles in so it can stand. There was a certain degree of joy to be had as I was free-wheeling through the manuscript building the ‘walls of the tent’ by the seat of my pants with no proper or completed planning. I knew the ending I wanted and tried to work towards it. But now I’ve finished and have to go back and make sure there’s no gaping holes in the plot and to make sure it all flows together.
I believe it has been this process which has pulled the love out of the project and now it’s just some more work. I actually walked out to the car yesterday morning to go to my real job and found myself thinking that my free-spirited, seat-of-the-pants discovery writing days are behind me. I don’t want to have to go back at the end of the story again and try to figure out whether everything has been put in and if there are any holes in the story. I believe that in my future projects I am going to sit down and outline the crap out of the story before I even start. It might mean there is less ‘freedom’ in my approach but it’ll also mean less work at the back-end.
Tied in with the thoughts about never discovery writing again was the thought that the writers of the television series Lost really buggered it all up (My mind can be a very weird place at times – I recently got the final season on DVD and have been watching some episodes). Maybe I was thinking of how to plan a story and that’s always to start at the end. I can’t imagine that the ending they gave us was the ending Damon Lindelof, Carlton Cuse and maybe J.J. Abrams thought of when creating the series. Sure, there was the reverse scene where the final thing you see was Jack closing his eyes where the opening scene was him opening his eyes on the island. But essentially the end was all of the characters going into the bright light and leaving their version of purgatory (*SPOILER ALERT*). There were dozens of questions they left unanswered and a part of me is fine with that, it was a story about the characters and not the plot of the island after all. The thing which got to me though was the fact that they had broken a promise to me the viewer. Admittedly it was never of screen that the promise was made, but the theory that they had been in purgatory had been floated around since the first season and the writers vehemently denied they were in purgatory. The end of the series rolls around and let’s be honest, the final proper scene was the characters leaving purgatory and not Jack handing the power over to Hurley. I felt cheated and it felt as though I had wasted the last six years of watching the series because of a big fat lie.
I suppose you could say that my thoughts were that I did not want to end any of my projects in a similar manner, breaking promises to the reader.
My purpose going forward is then crystal clear: PLAN EVERYTHING and DON’T BREAK PROMISES (SPOKEN OR NOT) TO THE READER.