The End (only not!)

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The Inn at night

The other day, at my usual table at the coffee shop, with my usual coffee-flavored latte at my elbow, I penned what they call the “Final Image” of the rough draft of Rivers and Roads. I don’t usually write “The End” until I’m satisfied that I’ve done all the revising and editing I can before I call in the Beta Readers to hack it to bits for me.

But this time, well… the new barista here has always been very inquisitive about my writing. She asks me “How’s your novel going” every time I come in and set my mug on the counter, and listens patiently while she fills it with coffee-flavored espresso and then creates milkfoam art on top.

So as I jotted the last few words (they made me cry, by the way. I hope they make you cry, too!) I stood, picked up my notebook, and carried it to the cash register. Our excellent barista looked up at me and asked, “How’s the novel going?”

I said, “I just wanted to share this moment with you.” Then I put the notebook down on the counter and wrote “The End” at the bottom of the page.

She was very sweet about it. She’s just that way.

Well, I just figured, seeing someone writing “The End” isn’t something most people get to do very often. Heck, I’ve only seen it five times, now, and I’m the one who wrote it. Well, typed it – until now!

Now the hard part starts: structural revisions, line edits, sweeps through to kill crutch-words (I really use the word “really” far too much!) and then the whole Beta Reader thing. And then more revising and editing. Actually, I call this “the hard part” (actually, I use the word “actually” too much, too.) but, this time, anyway it’s not turning out to be as hard as it was to write the story itself. This story really took it out of me, in a way the Woodley series didn’t even come close to. It kicked my butt every time I sat down to write it. But I hope that means it’ll kick your butt, too. In a nice way, of course!

This isn’t him, by the way. 🙂

PS: Speaking of writers and coffee shops, there’s a fellow here right now who always sits by the window typing on his laptop… When I say “typing,” I mean he pokes those keys so hard with the tips of his index fingers, I can’t believe he still has index fingers at all anymore. He hatchets away at the keys in short, sharp bursts, then he sits back, looks at the ceiling, mutters furiously under his breath, and returns to the keyboard. I sure hope he plans to publish whatever it is he’s writing, because I can’t wait to read it.

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Break Into Two

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I don’t always write according to any currently codified Story Structure, but when I do, it’s usually some form of the Three Act Structure.

I’ve found The Hero’s Journey to be a helpful guide in regulating my pacing, and also sometimes in figuring out just where the heck I’m going from here. Lately, though, I’ve become fascinated with Blake Snyder’s 15-beat “Save The Cat” structure. Not that I carefully adhere to it while actually writing, or anything like that, but on looking back I find I can deconstruct most of what I’ve written (or read, for that matter!) into these structures. I guess story, when you really let story tell itself through you, just naturally follows this sort of growth pattern. It’s in our DNA or something.

Anyway there’s a beat that almost all Three Act stories share, and that is the Break Into Two. And I don’t know why, but that’s just magical for me. I mean, all it really means is that this is where the story breaks into Act Two. Very prosaic.

But even knowing that, it still gives me shivers every time I hear it. Break Into Two. As far as I’m concerned, this is the real beginning of the story. The much-touted Inciting Incident is the very necessary beginning of the story itself, but it is usually something that happens to the character, outside of their control. The Break Into Two, on the other hand, is the beginning of the character’s story, because it’s something they choose willingly.

Here the character breaks their own world with their own hands. They know if they take one more step, they will plunge “down that damn rabbit-hole, where you know you can’t be saved.” But if they don’t take that step, there will be no story.

Couples and friendships are frequently broken up by the Break Into Two. When the old world is broken, the only hope of ever making it whole again is to forge unrelenting through the new world. The road is intimidatingly long, but the character shoulders their hastily-packed rucksack and sets out anyway (usually discovering too late that they have forgotten to bring a handkerchief.)

So I’ve just reached the Break Into Two in the [very rough] first draft of my current work in progress. This is the point where I, as the main character in my Author’s Journey, now honestly get a glimpse of just how far I have to go, how much work lies ahead of me, how ill-equipped I am to complete this task. It is also the point where I know there is no turning back. I’m as caught up in my character’s journey as my hapless character is, and abandoning the quest now would be as devastating for me as it would be for them.

Oh! Yes. About my story, my character, my current work in progress. I have given it the working title “Rivers and Roads” (you might remember this was also the original working title of Ghost of a Chance.) This, also, will probably change but I have realized there is definitely a theme (a river, and at least one road) running through all of my work, past and present. And yes, it’s the same river, in case you want to know. Just a different muddy riverbank.

Below is the blurb I’m writing toward. The content and wording, like the title, will almost certainly change as I get closer to the end, but now that I’ve reached the Break Into Two, it’s too late to turn back from the story itself.

Blurb v1.1 19June2021

Geddy Leigh Arkwright has a perfect, normal life – except she doesn’t. She vaguely remembers a magical childhood, wherein she believed in things more extraordinary than soul-stifling jobs and abusive fiancés. On the night when she decides she’s had enough, she throws her cell phone out her car window and sets off a chain of events which sends her tumbling, literally, into a hidden world of enchantment and mystery.

Only those who need a second chance can find the village of Tavisheen, or so its denizens keep telling her. Geddy isn’t sure she’s ever even had a first chance, but she checks into Keeper’s, a centuries-old country inn, anyway. After her initial shock at realizing not all of her fellow second-chancers are, strictly speaking, human, she begins to adjust to – and possibly even enjoy – her strange but intriguing new life.

But her old life comes back to haunt her when the dead body of her ex-fiancé turns up in the street in front of Keeper’s. She begins to understand it’s not so easy to leave your past behind by simply running away from it.

The Inn at night
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