Friday, 29 November 2019

Endings: N M Browne



I’ve just been editing my novel ‘Badwater’ which I hope will be out next year with the small independent publisher, 'Kristell Ink.'I enjoyed reading it again. I hope it is OK to admit that? 
   I wrote the first draft many years ago. It is set after the impact of climate change has left  most of SE England underwater and, though set in a broken society, it isn’t dystopian. My heroine and her friends are prepared to break with tradition to make their world better.The story was written long before the Extinction Rebellion and my Ollu is no activist, it is far too late for that, but she is brave and resourceful. It was rejected by Bloomsbury for not being an ‘N M Browne’ book, even though, I can assure you that NM Browne wrote it. Reading it again, it is very much in keeping with  every other book I have ever written. By that I mean it is a fantastic piece of work that deserves great success and a plethora of awards,  but in addition to its evident brilliance, I could see in that rejected draft all my usual quirks and idiosyncrasies present and incorrect. Sometimes the best critic is time and distance. 
   I produced the first draft so long ago that I’d forgotten the thought process that had led me to its ending and had no emotional attachment to the words on the page.  I still liked the characters, (who took up residence in my  imagination when I first wrote them and have never left) I loved the world too, but I could see all too clearly its many flaws.
    We all have our writing failings, my chief one is to conclude books too quickly. There are several reasons for that.
1.     I tend to read books at one sitting and read endings very fast in a state of nervous exhaustion at two in the morning: to me as a reader all ending are rushed.
2.     I don’t want the narrative to lose tension and wallow around tying up loose endings for the novel’s last quarter. Every time I see the final part of the film version of Lord of the Rings, I remember how unwise it is to drag the ending out.
3.     I write as I read and I tend to be very anxious to finally get the book done. Exhausted from what is usually an intense and immersive writing process, I’m inclined to gather what is left of my energy for a sprint finish. It is enough to get to the line and stagger over it.
It is also fair to say that different readers have different expectations of endings. Some want everything to be explained, tidied up and neatly put to bed; others want ambiguity, a measure of uncertainty, an opening up of possibilities and a sense that in some ways the story isn’t done. As a reader, I probably prefer the former type of ending (ambiguous endings bother me and oblige me to finish them off in my head) but, as a writer, I almost always plump for the latter and have even committed the cardinal sin of ending books with a cliff hanger; my Shrödinger’s heroine neither alive nor dead trapped in magical limbo. I am sorry, what can I say? it seemed like a good idea at the time? I was young and they told me it was artistic?
Anyway, these days I am a reformed character. The book that will be published is substantially rewritten and has a  satisfying ending, one which simultaneously  ties up loose ends and leaves open the possibility of more story, or at least that’s what  I hope. Don't we all long for a good ending?

2 comments:

Jan Needle said...

Oh we do, we do! And the very best of luck with this long gestated book.

Bill Kirton said...

I agree with you and Jan, Nicky, but there are times when I'd just settle for 'an ending'. My first historical novel had several readers (all of whom I trust) asking for a sequel, so I wrote one, washed my hands of the characters, and started wondering where to go next. Unfortunately, the same bunch of readers now want a third, even suggesting that I transpose the principals to contexts in Boston, Canada or Marseille. But I'm not ready so, as far as I'm concerned, they'll live out their tiny existences with nothing more dramatic than regular trips to the mid 19th century equivalents of Aldi and Lidl.