Well, chapter 5 of my fantasy adventure epic has been proofread and edited, thus completing act 1. The proofread has this excised about 11000 unnecessary words from the story, and I am now roughly a quarter of the way through. 15 chapters to go and I will be set.
There are a few reasons I am nervous about this. One is that I did not hire a professional editor. I unfortunately don’t have the money for that, and I already have three wonderful people basically working for me for free at this point. To get one more person involved would needlessly overcomplicate things. Since it is hard for me to view the story objectively, I do hope my own critique will be enough for the story to come alive.
The other much more dire reason I am nervous is not knowing just what happens next. Obviously there is a lot more of the story to tell, a lot more characters to introduce, and plenty, and I stress plenty, or arcs to complete. This massive load of work reinforced something I always felt, and do not hear that often from teachers or writers. Most people say the ending is the hardest part of any story.
That is bogus. The ending is not the hardest part. Often times, that is one of the earliest things a writer will come up with. For me anyway, after figuring out the beginning of a story, the ending makes itself known rather quick. Something that feels like the logical conclusion to the stage you just set, it never was an issue with me.
No, the ending is not the hardest part. The middle is. The long, drawn out, treacherous middle of the story.
This is something that is often called the second act nightmare. You can see it in a lot of movies and books that have memorable setups and fantastic payoffs, but the middle is just something that is drawn out, dull, and all around unsatisfying. It feels less like a story and more like filler, spending too much time building up the climax and not enough time making the audience understand why they should care. It is enough to stop a story dead in its tracks.
Several books are needed to complete this story. At least four more, though maybe five. There are several characters you have yet to meet that will play a big part in things to come. The relationships between the characters are just beginning, and the destination they are heading to is something I already know. But how, oh how, to get there.
Shortage of ideas is not a problem, but if it doesn’t contribute in some way to the main story, it serves no purpose. I have lots of ideas from fight scenes to dialogue, even other adversaries to overcome, but tying them together is proving to be a challenge. I cannot put in a book just for the sake of a plot punt. There are plenty of ideas I had for stories and villains for the heroes to fight on their way to the final boss, but as fun as many of these ideas are, if they feel shoehorned in to me, odds are the audience will feel the same.
There are 15 more chapters to get through and a publisher to find in the meantime. While facing these challenges, I will have much planning to do. But I know that ending. I have known the ending for a very long time now. But the matter of how to get there in a way that maximizes the rewarding feel for my readers. The experience is a lot like climbing a mountain. You can see the peak from where you are, but there are an awful lot of pitfalls to overcome along the way.