A Writer’s Dilemma

There’s this novel.

I wrote it shortly after my screenwriting days, back when my would-be writing career found itself at square one again. No agent would read it. No publisher would look at it. I knew my query letters sucked, like they always had, but I also knew the book itself was solid. And when a traditional publisher finally did consider it, the damn thing nearly sold.

It was good, they agreed. Very good, in fact. They just didn’t like the last hundred or so pages.

Their reasons made sense, too, the kind of feedback that causes writers to smack their own heads and shout “Of course!” And I knew from that moment on, with complete and utter certainty, that I had to scrap the final third of the manuscript and come up with something else entirely.

For three years, I knew that. I just couldn’t crack the new Act Three. Even as I gave up on a traditional career and published four indie books on my own, I knew those last hundred or so pages had to go. I just could not, for the life of me, come up with the replacement.

Until the day after this past Christmas, that is, in one coffee- and then beer-fueled, longhand-writing, paper-crumpling afternoon of notes and outlines and revised notes and revised outlines.

I got on the plane the next day and knew, with complete and utter certainty, that I had it. Yesterday, I started writing, and the main character’s voice, the tone of the piece, came back within moments. I still knew this guy. I wrote the first of the new chapters, realized a few of the passages early on in the old Act Three could still be used, and went to that New Year’s Eve party afterward a very happy man.

And today? Today I made the mistake of reading through all of those hundred or so old pages again, but this time deeply, and carefully, in a way I hadn’t done in at least three years now, looking for whatever other portions could still be used in the new Act Three.

And I realized the old Act Three actually holds up.

It has its bumps and rough patches, sure, and the final scene—the one that actually made me want to write this book in the first place—doesn’t quite gel the way that it should. But the flow is good, the characters react naturally for how they developed in the first two-thirds, and the whole thing just feels right in a way I don’t remember it feeling back when I read that editor’s notes, smacked my head, and shouted “Of course!”

So now I have two completely different yet equally possible endings, too many irons in the fire to do both of them justice, and a total writer’s dilemma.

Why can’t this writing thing ever be simple?

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2 Responses to A Writer’s Dilemma

  1. Craig says:

    You need to follow the third way.

    They’re both right.

    They’re not necessarily mutually exclusive.

  2. Craig says:

    Or they’re both wrong. I suspect both right.

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