I am one of those terrible creatures – the non-linear writer. I write my scenes all over the place, and usually have no idea where I am going. This often used to bite me on the bum.
When I mainly wrote short fiction this was less of a problem. Novels require a lot more discipline temporally, and finding a way to resolve my non-linear writing with the linear demands of novels was a big issue for me. It took me a long time (about a decade, because I am slow) but I made peace with it.
I see my novels as narratives made up of scenes that talk to each other – almost like a party. Each scene is part of a conversation that flows backwards and forwards in the novel. And of those scenes, it is always the last and the first that are the most important. They’re not only the loudest, but they keep the others in line (or allow for weird digressions – after all, who says a novel should be a tight series of scenes if it doesn’t want to be?).
And for me it is the end that has to work the hardest. I’m not talking about the climax, but the moments after: the gathering of arguments the drawing in of feelings. Once I get that final scene down – and sometimes, mercifully, it comes to me early in the drafting – I can see how the rest of the pieces fit, and where they fit.
With the Death Works Trilogy I wanted the first book to end with a kiss, the second a storm, and the third with a victory, and a defiant defeat. That third book seemed a long, long way off when I finished the first book. But it was always there: waiting.
There’s another ending, and it’s a ways off if I can ever get around to writing the last books. But there was a time when that ending seemed unlikely, and the ending of the third book was going to be all I had. To be honest the series wasn’t going that well, and what I thought might be six books became three, and that made me a little narratively defiant – not to my lovely editors or Hachette, but to the fact that the books weren’t quite getting an audience.
And besides, when you write about the Business of Death you damn well need to deal with death. My protagonist, Steven de Selby had grown up, and part of growing up is understanding that nothing lasts forever.
But we don’t have to be happy about it.
Steve was lucky in a way; he got to lay down the terms of his defeat. Most of us don’t. And I was lucky too. But I reckon I’ve been lucky with all the endings of my books. The Nightbound Land Series ended with the word hope. The first Death Works Trilogy ends with a moment of pure and wonderful defiance on the Gold Coast’s Main Beach.
Writing it I knew I probably wasn’t going to see those characters again. But there was a reason it ends on the beach. Things that wash away often come back. It’s the way of tides and waters, and it’s the way of stories too.♦
Trent Jamieson‘s Death Works Trilogy of novels is available from Orbit books, and a continuation The Memory of Death is available through Momentum Books. Roil, and Night’s Engines are available from Angry Robot. His latest book Day Boy will be published by Text in June. His webpage is www.trentjamieson.com.
Published May 6, 2015
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