There comes a point, it suddenly seems evident to me, that the line is crossed – these notes I am writing are no longer planning notes, but procrastinating notes. They are a means for me to say “I am writing” without actually writing. They are rehashing, adding depth to the world I am creating when the layers are already there.
I am planning a story at the moment. It is not a complex story and I don’t expect it to be a long one. But during this whole planning process only the first week was really productive. The second week has been window dressing. In the first week I created a character, I gave her motivations and a personality, flaws which are human and normal and quite possibly at the core of quite a lot of decisions made my people the world over. I created a world for her to live in, a unique town for her to live and run a business in and a city far away for her to journey to in search of her long lost daughter.
In the second week mostly what I created was fluff. A history for this city she travels to, and as a consequence a landmark along the way. The culture’s attitude to death and the soul and how this impacts on one very small part of the quest. A superfluous plot outline that fails to cover the ending.
So now it feels like procrastination. I know what I need to do to get to the point at which I can begin writing: I need names for at least my main character and her son, travelling with her, and I need the ending. And instead of spending the last few days working on these, I’ve been writing notes about how cremation is the prefered method of dealing with the dead and how the beliefs about the soul affect this.
The answer of course is to just get on with it. Work out those outstanding things and start. And maybe, now I have recognised that what I’ve been doing the last few days is little more than window-dressing, I’ll get onto that. But the reason I’m procrastinating is the ending. I’m not good with endings. I don’t write nearly enough of them. That’s why one of my resolutions is to write some short stories this year – practice with endings. Conclusions.
Conclusions are easy in non-fiction. You pull your main points together, present them persuasively and concisely, perhaps use them to justify an important conclusion or argument being made. You demonstrate why points A, B and C lead to conclusion X. With fiction it’s different. The ending must, as with non-fiction, lead on logically from what has gone before with no leaps of faith or unexplained changes in direction. But it is not inevitable. There are possibilities, limited not by evidence and logic but by imagination and desire. They must feel satisfying but not contrived. And they must end. There must be a point before which is part of the story and after which is superfluous, suitable to be left to the reader’s imagination and not mine.
This leaves me with tomorrow’s writing session, when I expect to be brainstorming endings – unless some new element of the world pokes its head above the parapet and distracts me. So either planning or procrastination.