Writing the End

the end

The beginnings of my novels and stories usually get the most revision, mainly due to the fact that there’s a bit of flailing involved.  I’m still trying to figure out the voice and the focus of the story, so there’s going to be a lot of dead-ends and extraneous filler that gets cut out, once I find my footing.

The endings, on the other hand, can go either way.  Usually I know exactly where I want to stop; it’s just a matter of laying out how I’m going to get there.  It’s a balancing game at that point…I don’t want to rush it, nor do I want to pad it out with unnecessary rambling.

I’ve made all kinds of errors in my years of learning how to write stories. I’ve written corny cliffhangers, implausible wrap-ups, unimportant ‘where are they now’ passages, and everything in between.  [I can proudly say I have yet to write an ‘…and then he woke up, and it was all a dream” ending.  Even I have my standards!]  I usually spend as much time focusing on nailing the end as I do nailing the most important climactic scenes that come before it.  I want to do it just right.  Or right enough, where it can be fine-tuned in revision.

With Meet the Lidwells — I’m currently writing the last chapter at this time, and I should be done most likely this week or next — the ending has definitely been a tough one.  As this is a story written in the format of a music biography, I can’t give it a nice poetic ending, or a roll-credits ending.  Those books tend to resolve themselves in a slightly different way.  The focus characters go on with their lives and careers, so this ending has to be more of an emotional closure.  That part of their lives is over now, and they’ve moved on.  And that’s been a hell of a tough one to capture just right.

I’m not looking to nail the ending perfectly, at least not right now.  But when revision comes along, hopefully I’ll be able to do it justice.

Point of View

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Timelapse of Jupiter from Io’s POV, December 2013.  Credit: user ‘bubbleweed’ on Reddit

Recently I’ve hit a few tough patches in Meet the Lidwells, where it just feels like I’ve slowed to a crawl and the story’s not going anywhere.  I know what story I need to tell, but for some reason it’s been like slogging through mud trying to get there.  I know this is a problem because when I as an author feel the sluggishness, I know my readers will feel the same thing.  And I don’t want to do that.

So in this instance, I decided that maybe someone else’s point of view would be worth investigating.  Instead of the kids in the band talking through their attempts on a comeback album after taking a much-needed hiatus, I realized that it might be a bit more interesting to tell this struggle from their manager’s point of view.

Why?  I felt their story would be more interesting.  The kids in the band have mostly grown up (the youngest is now 16 and the others are in or approaching their 20s), and from their view, they’re just hoping that the Big Comeback will work out.  On the other hand, their manager has the thankless job of Making That Happen.  Once I got started on that, everything was smooth sailing again.

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Over the years, changing the POV when I’m stuck has definitely helped when I’m stuck.  More often than not a different witness to the story will bring in a fresh take on the situation, maybe even create some needed conflict in the process by going against what the main characters want and expect.  Even if I end up not using it, or rewriting it again from someone else’s point of view, at least I’ve managed to get myself out of that sluggish spot and back on track.

For me, it’s yet another way to work outside expectations.  Forcing myself to think about something from a different angle almost always produces sometimes helpful but always interesting results.

(Not so) Great Starts

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The upside is that I’ve already gotten a good couple thousand words in on Meet the Lidwells!  Most of the text is coming straight from the very rough draft I wrote a few years back, of course, but it’s going in the right direction.

The downside is that I can already see where I’m going wrong.  Thankfully I know exactly what it is that’s wrong, and how to fix it.

I’ll be honest — the beginnings of my novels are always a mess.  I spend the first couple of chapters knowing what I want to write, but I haven’t quite grasped how I want it to play out.  The prose is all over the place as I try out all kinds of different styles on the fly.  I’ll plant the seeds of one or two minor plot points that may or may not survive the end result.  I may even get a few of the details mixed up.

But hey, that’s what revision and editing is for, right?  Once I do figure it all out (which is usually around two or three chapters in), then I have a solid platform for the rest of the novel, and I can clean everything up in those two or three sketchy first scenes.   A Division of Souls had at least three wildly different openings before I put all the pieces together and figured out which one works the best.  I had a hell of a time trying to figure out how to start The Balance of Light the way I wanted it.  Lidwells is no different; once I get into the groove, I’ll be able to build a more solid opening.

Do I wish I could write a perfect opening?  Nah.  Doing it the way I do is actually part of the fun!  It helps me connect with the story on an emotional level; once I’ve done that, then I can reshape the opening to fit that mood.  I don’t see it as wasting time and words; I see it as part of the whole exercise.  As long as I’m going in the right direction…that’s all that really matters.

Fly-by: Currently on vacation 

Hi, gang! Currently hanging out in the LA area for a quick mini-vacation.  The above was taken on Santa Monica Pier, where I recorded some crowd sounds for the Lidwells project  (it’s a plot point about 2/3 thru the book) and even expanded on that particular thread in the process!  Win!

So yeah, we’ll be back up and running later this week!

Coming soon, Autumn 2017

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It’s a rock memoir.  It’s a music biography.  It’s fiction.  It’s a love story.  What the hell is it, anyway?

Meet the Lidwells! is the story of a family band from the 90s — four siblings and two cousins — rocking out at town and county fairs and wherever their parents could book them, until they hit the big time with the insanely catchy hit “Grapevine.”  They sign to a major label and become a huge success, selling out on tours, finding their faces plastered in teen magazines…only to burn out fast, lose their way, and go out in a blaze of glory less than a decade later.

And yet, somehow, they manage to keep their love of family (not to mention a ridiculous obsession with music) strong and unbreakable.

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Not the final cover, obviously, but you get the idea.

This was a story that came to me out of nowhere while I was working on my daily 750 Words back in early 2015.  Okay, maybe not out of nowhere.  One of my online friends had casually mentioned family bands at some point, and that led me to think of the Osmonds.  [I will freely admit that I loved that band when I was a little kid, well before my obsession with the Beatles.  Crazy Horses is still a great album.]  At the same time, I’d been reading a lot of music biographies, and was also working on my Walk in Silence project, when it occurred to me that writing a fictional music bio would be a hell of a lot of fun.

And it was!  I spent a good couple of weeks utilizing my daily words, coming up with fictional interviews, backstory, and even a discography.  Meet the Lidwells! will be my next project once the Bridgetown Trilogy is wrapped up, and I’m totally stoked about completing this one!

I hope you enjoy it!

I Write the Songs

I don’t think I’ve written more than a dozen or so songs since I moved out here to San Francisco in 2005.  Probably much less than that.  A few clips of melody, maybe a riff or two, but nothing concrete, not like my last songwriting wave in the early 00s when I was jamming with Bruce and Eric in jeb!.  The latest actual song milling about in my head is an instrumental I created using the sound of London’s District Line clacking down the tracks near Earls Court as percussion (which I recorded to my phone); I have not yet had time to lay it down as a demo, though I did get as far as making a very rough loop of the train as a trial run.

Why do I bring this up?  Well, it seems my next writing project involves songwriting.

What’s this, you say?  Has Jon gone off the deep end in a severely misguided attempt to write a multimedia book?  I mean, he’s a pretty decent writer and makes cool covers, but music?  What the hell is he thinking?

Well, I blame Wesley Stace for this.  Formerly known as John Wesley Harding for you 90s alternative rock people, he wrote a fun novel called Wonderkid about a quirky band that, against all odds, became a huge hit in the 90s, primarily due to having an extremely large preteen audience.  It’s a hell of a fun book and worth checking out.

Sometime later, I was chatting online with a friend about the Osmonds (I forget the context), when I came up with an idea of writing a music-based novel myself.  Thus the family band The Lidwells were born!

That said…

Now that I’m at the point of wanting to do some prep for the Lidwells project, I’m not just thinking about making character sheets and a working discography (yes, I’m going that deep), but may be writing a few of the songs mentioned in the text.  All told I’m hoping to write about a dozen or so songs during the course of writing this book.

Added to that, this story takes place in the 90s during the alt.rock boom, so I’m going to have to write music that sounds like it would have fit then.  Will I record them as demos and post them here?  Yeah, there’s a good chance of that happening.

This should be interesting…