As I near the end of my second draft in Spurn the Moon, I’m beginning to find it more enjoyable and more action packed. Plots and subplots are coming together, big secrets are being revealed, and every scene feels huge.
So why do I still have lingering doubts about my novel?
Well although I may be enjoying writing it now, and I hope that translates into a reader enjoying reading it later, too many big scenes can make the climax fall far short of where it can be.
Let me ask you to consider a base jumper. At the beginning of their career (or hobby, whatever you want to call it), small jumps are exciting. But ten years later, perhaps it takes a jump ten times as high to reach that same level of excitement as felt at the beginning. The more excitement in your life, the harder you are to excite.
In a novel, the higher the excitement, the more immune your reader is going to become to it. If you put your reader in a heightened sense of tension for too much of the novel, especially coming into your climax, the climactic scene itself is less likely to impress or be memorable to the reader.
The reason it’s called the “climax” is because it should be the biggest, most emotive scene in the story. While the plot points are big game changers, the climax is what we are all there for. The rest is just foreplay.
With so much pressure to perform, the climax is almost as scary to write as the first chapter. But knowing what’s going to happen makes it easier to write (for me/climax) than the journey getting there (first chapter).
At the same time, climaxes have their own issues: if they don’t meet expectations, that’s the final chance to make an impression. If the reader doesn’t like the climax, then chances are they won’t return for another book.
Definite pressure lies atop delivering the climactic moment in a book then. So it’s no wonder that as I near writing the climax, I’m getting performance anxiety. What if it doesn’t live up to the hype? (Is there enough hype?) What if it is overshadowed by the scenes preceding it? Is there a second climax overshadowing the real climax? It is unpredictable? But is it inevitable?
A million questions begin to run through my head about this time in my drafts. Because this is the reason I’m writing this story, right? It’s all to get to this point, and I want to be certain that the payoff is exactly as big as it should be and not a bit more or less. More and it’s overdramatic, less and it’s not memorable enough.
So now I’m striving to make my climax exactly as big as it should be, and I’m worried. Worried it’s going to fall short, fall beneath a subplot climax, and that it’s going to be unmemorable.
But, I write on. Because I can’t fix it if there’s nothing to fix.