Writer John McNally posted on FB he was going to finish a story that day.
Today’s goal is to sit down and write a complete draft of a story that I’ve been unsuccessfully toying with for two years. I’ve written three different openings so far, as much as 25 pages of new material, countless revisions, and then last night I saw the ending: it’s a detail from an unpublished novel I wrote in 2002. The process is a messy, shitty one, but I don’t know a better one.
I’ve known John for 25 years and this was unusual. A story taking years to finish is normal. It’s probably one of the reasons why his stories are incredible. His collection, Ghosts of Chicago, is phenomenal, the work of a short story master.
The odd part is the self-imposed, publicly stated deadline. Much later that night / very early the next morning he posted an update.
Done. 4,000 words on the nose. The ending I thought I was going to use? I didn’t use it. But thinking I was going to use it unlocked the story.
As he posted yesterday, getting a story on paper is a messy business. It requires a discipline he has been sharpening for about 40 years. My guess is he found the epiphany, he discovered the elusive ending that’s unexpected but plausible.
John is a morning writer. A grinder. He’s at the keyboard every morning. Yesterday’s writing session must’ve lasted 20 hours. That’s some discipline.
After my morning FB scan, I stopped by Seth’s blog and read ‘There is more than one solution to your problem (and your problem is real).’ That’s some serendipity.
Falling in love with your solution makes it incredibly difficult to see its flaws, to negotiate with people who don’t agree with you, to find an even better solution.
But of course, the problem is real. The dissatisfaction or inefficiency or wrong direction isn’t going to go away merely because we deny it.
It’s amazing how much we can get done when agree to get something done.