I was in the throes of writing Devil in Texas when my muse went on vacation — for nine months, mind you. Seriously. What writer doesn’t know the ending of her novel for nine FREAKING MONTHS?!
“God hates me,” I whined to my favorite mortal writing goddess (whom we’ll call Claire.) “I don’t know the climax! I don’t know who’s going to die, who’s going to live, and who’s going to hop the train at the end. Heck, I don’t even know where that train is headed! I’m so stumped, my middle name is TREE!”
Claire popped another cheese puff in her mouth. “So go read something.”
I gnashed my teeth. “I’m tired of reading.”
“Not your book, silly. Read mine.”
(You gotta watch goddesses. They always have an angle.)
“Oh, sure. Easy for you to say,” I grumbled. “Your book is finished.”
“Yep.” Claire sucked down her soda and crushed the can. “Which reminds me. How’d you like to endorse it?”
“How’d you like to take up permanent residence inside that soda can?”
Claire grinned. “Sassy comeback. I like it. Can I use it in my next novel?”
“No!” (Claire is one of the cheekier goddesses in my writing pantheon.) “Claire, this is SERIOUS! I always know the ending of my novels! In fact, I usually know the ending before the beginning! What’s the matter with me? I’m on page 300. Why can’t I figure out the climax of this book?”
“How many villains did you say you have?”
“Uh . . . three.”
“Don’t you think that’s two too many?”
“Well . . . “
“And how many hero raccoons?”
“Don’t start. The raccoon was in the last two books. I can’t kill it off just because I don’t know how to use it to make the plot move forward!
“Besides,” I continued irritably, “when I killed off a dog in an earlier book, my Bantam editor threatened to fire me. And last year, during a blog tour, I posted an excerpt with one teensy-weensy, throw-away line about a toad getting crushed by a wagon. Half the blog readers in the UNIVERSE wrote that they were bummed out about that toad!”
“’That’s ’cause you didn’t give the toad fangs. And make it suck blood.”
“You’re not helping!”
“Oh. Right. Well, in my experience, when you can’t see the end of the story, something in the middle isn’t working.”
“Yeah. I know.” Claire patted my shoulder. “Rewriting sucks. But so does being permanently stuck on page 300. Take your pick.”
Claire is the queen of the tough-love goddesses. Boy, was I glad to ditch her when my nice, friendly Muse came back! (Just kidding, Claire.)
But BEFORE my Muse came back, I had to sit in the hot seat, type for 40 pages, and repeat the following mantra through gritted teeth, “I can rewrite this crap later . . . “
Fortunately, something cool happened while I was writing full-steam-ahead. I call it the Mausoleum Scene. Yep, it was totally unplanned. The hero and his sidekick get tossed into a tomb and left for dead. Thanks to my Muse, those six pages contain some of the funniest one-liners in the novel.
And never fear, raccoon fans! My Muse found a purpose for Vandy in my Eureka Ending (definition: the last scene was pulled out of thin air.) The raccoon added humor by stowing away in the heroine’s traveling trunk. I have to admit, when the coon-in-the-trunk idea occurred to me – breezing through my mind in a barely audible whisper, as most Muse ideas do – I groaned and almost discarded it.
When will I learn to listen to my Muse?
Once the words started flowing, I could see that the raccoon was the perfect device to create a romantic reunion for the hero and heroine. The scene turned out PRECIOUS, if I do say so myself!
So, the moral of this blog post is . . . You don’t have to know the ending of your story.
You just have to keep writing and trusting your Muse.