Posted by: Casey Lybrand | July 26, 2010

State of the WIP, Take II: Blowing Past the Ending?

Yes, I State-of-the-WIPed on Friday. Yes, I need to do it again. Oh boy, do I need to go again on this topic.

Mazed and confused

Mazed and confused by Jacek Sniecikowski, on Flickr


You know how I’ve been going on about trying to find my ending? Yeah. I think part of the problem may be that I’ve blown past my ending already. And now I’m in book two. It’s possible! [1] I may need to go back and rescue those eight chapters I thought I was going to cut. That may be the beginning, after all. Like I originally thought.

How did this happen?

That is not, by the way, a rhetorical question. It’s a real one, which I am asking myself over and over. I had an outline! Then I went off of it. Now where do I go? Well, I go back to outlining. I have to figure out the book I’m writing before I can continue writing it. I also feel I should finish up book one before continuing with book two, if that’s what I’m dealing with, here.

What about that 1,000 Words a Day commitment?

Not much change there, actually. I said about 1,000 Words a Day that on days my 1,000 words of creative writing were not for my WIP, I would also spend at least an hour working on the structure of my WIP. That is just and exactly what I am going to do. I may also write missing scenes from the earlier part of the MS for my 1,000 words commitment, but I feel I need to stop writing forward in the plot until I’ve worked out the structural issue.

After the idea occurred to me that I’ve leaped forward into book two, the scene I was writing (in what seems to be book two [2]) became about one hundred percent easier to write. Thinking of it as the early stage of building something up, rather than rushing to the climax, felt so much truer to what the scene actually was. This makes me think I’m on the right track, and that I need to slow down and examine the structure again.

The End?

I think I’ve found my ending, after all. It’s just that it’s several chapters back and requires some missing scenes filled in ahead of it to have the impact it needs to have. I’m pretty sure that in order to finish my first draft, I need to go back, fill in some bits I haven’t written yet and make sure the ending (which I’ve already written) is right.

In other good news, if I’m right about this structural issue, I will be back on track with my theme again. I’ve felt for a while that I’ve been moving away from it. If I have, indeed, moved into book two, that would make sense: the second book [3] has a different theme.

Your Thoughts, Please

Is this normal? Does everyone have problems like this? Does anyone else have problems like this? I feel very grateful for all the helpful and encouraging comments I receive when I reach out on my writing issues. Any help or guidance on this one would also be most appreciated. These are some of my closest thoughts about this novel, and I feel a little shaky sharing, but I could really use some input.

Don’t be surprised if I come back in a week and declare that there is nothing wrong with the plot and it’s all book one anyway. (Oh, except just writing that didn’t feel right.) Also don’t be surprised if I come back with a new, improved outline which puts the scene I’ve just written right in the middle of book two. It really feels that way. I’ll keep you posted!

So totally footnotes:

1: Now, that would make my word count a little low for book one. There are quite a few missing scenes from what I’ve been thinking about as the back story, beginning, and the middle of the book, and what may instead be the beginning, middle, and end. I stopped working on those scenes when I thought I would need to cut so many chapters at the front – I didn’t want to write things I would have to later cut. Now I think all those chapters and scenes (some of which are not written yet) belong there after all.

2: By “book two” I mean “this work has series potential“. Of course.

3: Series potential, remember! The second book of a trilogy should have a different theme than the first.


Wanna know how this kind of issue plays out at home? My novel is big conversation at my house; it has been since, several months ago, it ballooned from a short story into a work of (at least) novel-length proportions. This weekend, I go to the In-House Literary Critic the First (LC1) and drop some news. I present the scene here in script form, in a work I have entitled “Lofty Thoughts on the Writing Process, Featuring the Very Sensitive Writer and the In-House Literary Critic the First”:

Me: “I think I know what the problem is. With my work-in-progress. But it’s a secret.”

LC1: Shoots an incredulous look, topped off with a smirk. “No, it’s not.”

Me: “Okay, no it’s not.” Glances away and bites lip. “I think I’m working on book two. At this point. And that’s why I can’t find my ending. Because. Um.”

LC1: Deepens incredulous look, now with added jaw-dropping. “So now you’re saying you can’t even write
just a novel?”

Me: Scowls and considers explicating the relative structural and technical merits of works of various lengths, from short stories to trilogies. Catches on to the smirkiness lingering in the incredulity. “Just. Shut up!”

LC1: Snickers.

Why, yes, this is what passes for advanced literary conversation at my house.


  1. You’re not alone – I think we can all relate.

    I’ve written to the end then back; past the end then back again. Chapter 1, book 2 was written by accident. Holes need filled in all over book 1, but when you get lost in your writing it takes you places you never imagined possible.

    Missing pieces can be filled in during drafts 2, 3, 4 etc.

    The book I started in September last year is not the book I’m writing now.

    You might want your plot to go one way; your characters might want it to go another. Sometimes it’s a just matter of choosing your battles.

    My mind changes every other day so if you come back and say everything is OK, well that’s OK.

    Don’t pull your hair out just yet! I wonder if it’s a trait of writer’s to push themselves to the brink of insanity?

    Your addendum gave me a giggle.


  2. Think of the advantage of being part way through Book 2. All you have to do is figure out the best way to separate them at a reasonable joint.

  3. I never even had an outline! God knows how I wrote the novel. I just wrote and wrote without having a clue as to how it would really end. I had a vague idea of the ending but then you know what happened? My characters TOOK OVER and changed the ending! I kid you not…maybe I’m just possessed you know ha ha.

    Seriously though, you are going through something that is very natural. Stephen King talks about how he likes it when his characters take over. So perhaps, your story is changing slightly, nothing wrong with that. Don’t expect to stick to the outline 100 percent. Allow the changes to happen, perhaps, they’re for the best.

    I know how confusing it can get, trust me. I found a huge mess on my first draft, it’s still partly messy even now, fixing it bit by bit.

  4. Hey Casey.
    First of all, I really enjoyed reading this post. It’s nice to hear someone else describe their process – comforting.
    I did not outline my WIP. (The experience has led me to want to outline the sequel…yet, here I am again, writing in the sequel without outlining first, but I digress.) So, I didn’t have an outline but I did have ideas of things that would happen in book 1. And then I go to about 70K wds or so and I realized that a bunch of the stuff I thought was going to happen in book 1 was actually going to happen in book 2. Then I went through an cut 45K wds (more than half of which I have proceeded to put back in), but the whole first two thirds of the novel into bits and moved them all around to different places. Now I’m adding a section in the middle that I thought would end up at about 30 K words after editing and now looks closer to 15 K. So that makes the word count perhaps too low…but then again, maybe not. And maybe I’ll do in and add some of those scenes I thought would be in book 2…but probably not.
    So…No, I have not had exactly the same experience as you, but quite a few similarities. I think everyone’s process is different but I think the types of experiences you are having are probably as normal as anything in writing can be.

  5. It just occurred to me, I know writing before the “beginning” is very common, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the same can be said for writing past the ending – after all, story doesn’t really stop, right, because we’re looking at people’s lives (I supposed you could argue it might stop if everyone died, but I digress again.) Anyway, story doesn’t stop, but we have to figure out where the /book/ starts and ends, which can be an editing, rather than a writing, task.

  6. So incredibly reassuring! Usually I can generalize better than this. Guess I was just feeling shaky. Thank you for the encouragement, everyone! I love reading about other writers’ processes, as well. It helps to know we’re not alone.

    Janice, I do feel lost in my writing. That’s why I want to pull back and look at it. I can’t quite believe it, but I think I’m at that stage! Interesting about your book two, chapter one. I like your approach! (Glad you liked the addendum. To be fair, when we talked about it further, the In-House Literary Critic the First asked, “So, have I read the ending already?”, and knew exactly what it was, too, before I told.)

    Carol Ann, thank you. That is some good perspective. In some ways, I’m ahead of the game. Just have to finish up with book one first!

    Alannah, I have so much respect for your process (i.e., you are not possessed! Well, maybe by your muse? But that’s okay). I think my expectations for the outline — which is kind of a new process for me — were not quite realistic for how I actually write. I do trust you. I know I can fix it. I’m so impressed that you are in that stage now. Such an inspiration!

    Layla, yes, quite a few similarities! That is comforting. Thank you for sharing your process, as well. How interesting that you are thinking of which book certain scenes may happen in; I’m wondering the same thing about my own WIP. I like this: “…as normal as anything in writing can be.” I laughed when I read it — it’s so true! I also like what you said about beginnings and endings (that is, the real ending is when everyone is dead, maybe). I’m pretty close to editing, I think. A few missing scenes to pick up first, 1000 words at a time!

  7. Casey,
    There’s a quote about how you should actually worry when you’re /not/ lost on the tip of my tongue, but I can’t quite remember it.
    Anyway, I’m not even sure I can separate drafting from editing at this point ;).

    Re: “the real ending is when everyone is dead, maybe” – definitely not in my book, but for most stories, probably ;).

  8. The project has apparently expanded beyond your outline. I think you’re on the right track with your reassessment of the project and wish you luck in making it all work.

  9. This just proves my theory- stories are alive! They have a will of their own and no matter how much we outline, they determine their own destiny :)
    I think this is perfectly fine Casey, especially if your writing got easier after you discovered that you jumped ahead. I’ve never started writing a story and followed the out line point by point. And I just want to say bravo to you for sticking to your 1000 words a day commitment, you’re doing a GREAT job! :)

  10. “stories are alive! They have a will of their own and no matter how much we outline, they determine their own destiny :)” – love this, Lua!

  11. Layla, oh, that is right! Paranormal! ;) So, no ending-endings, then. Only where this particular story ends. And no need to worry about not being lost: strangely reassuring. (I love writing!)

    Cassandra, thank you. It’s a interesting process. I really appreciate your perspective and your well wishes!

    Lua, that getting easier bit was eye-opening for me. And the more I think about it, the more comfortable I become with the ending of book one. (It’s actually closer to the “ending” from my outline, so that’s something.) Thank you so much for the encouragement!

    Lua and Layla, “stories are alive” — it sure feels that way sometimes!

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