Once again, I am late on a book. This time, it’s a combination of things: first off, I didn’t count on how much time handling my Dad’s taxes would take this year; second off, I didn’t count on yet another family crisis involving meeting with lawyers and bankers and what-not cropping up at more or less the same time; and third, I didn’t expect this book to be 30,000 words longer than the last one I turned in.
I am – finally! – within three chapters of the end. (I think it’s only two more chapters, but things often take longer than I expect them to, so I’m allowing myself three just in case.) And I am therefore confidently expecting (absent any additional crises) to have the whole thing done by the end of the week.
Yes, that means I expect to write two to three chapters in four days. No, this is not my usual work speed. So why am I so confident?
Barn door syndrome. Like the horse coming home at the end of a long day, I can see that I’m almost there, and no matter how tired and sick of this book I am, the thought of being done provides all the oomph I need. Also, with only 2-3 chapters left, I have a very clear idea of What Happens Next, and very little time for unexpected twists to mess things up. The next scene will be the Last Big Crisis, followed by whatever immediate clean-up is needed; that should complete the next chapter, or a bit more if handling the Big Crisis takes more space than I think it’s going to. Then I have some character issues to get finally resolved, (half a chapter, or possibly a whole one…characters will keep talking on, even when I really want them to get on with it). Then I can send them all home at last.
I’ve been anticipating this rush-to-the-end for the last ten chapters. I was really hoping it would hit about five chapters ago, but that was before I realized how much I still had to cover in detail and how much space it would take.
Which goes to show that one ought not to depend too much on one’s previous process or productivity levels, as they can and do change without notice. I am already having to tell myself firmly, on an hourly basis, that just because I am currently producing nearly a chapter a day, this does not mean I can blithely assume that I will continue at this rate, and can therefore figure on writing my next book in a month or less (much as I would like to).
On the contrary, experience shows that my daily word-count production is likely to drop way, way back as I fiddle with plot outlines and plans. It’ll spike for a couple of chapters around chapter two or three, then I’ll hit a wall somewhere between chapter 7 and chapter 10. There will be a long, slow slog (punctuated by quicksand and distracting emergencies) until somewhere around chapter 20, where things will start picking up until I once again get within three to five chapters of The End, whereupon the rest of the book will come out in a rush.
The pattern is fairly reliable. The trouble is figuring out how many chapters the book will have (and/or how long the chapters will be, as a shift there can throw off the pattern quite easily). I was expecting this book to be around 25 chapters. I finished chapter 31 this morning, and have, as I said, two or three to go.
You’d think I’d know better than to count on the predictabilty of my process by this time.