Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Get the ending right, before starting the start

I've got a radio drama project I've been nurturing for years. The idea first came to me close to a decade ago, and it's been percolating away ever since. Much of that time was spent half-heartedly pulling together research material, no doubt an effort by my subconscious to delay ever actually starting work or committing anything to paper. Like quite a few writers, I suffer from the delusion that any story can be perfect - so long as I never actually write it.

The moment I try putting something down on paper, all the flaws become apparent and my perfect idea withers into an unsightly mess of stuff. Never let it out of my head and the immaculate conception of my imagination can remain just that - immaculate. Flawless. A thing of beauty. Of course, that's the path to procrastination, vacillation and never actually writing anything. Since I write for a living, that's not an option. For better or worse, writers write.

So why haven't I progressed my radio drama? Well, no deadline, for a start. I write well to deadline, but struggle to apply the same discipline on projects that remain purely speculative. In truth, that's probably just another crutch I use to avoid writing. I suspect my real problem with the radio play is I don't have an ending. I have my setting, my protagonist, my genre and an incident that gets the story started - but I don't know how it ends.

For me, this is unusual. I always know the ending. I've never written a story without first knowing how it finished. Partly this is born of the fact almost everything I've written has been to commission. To get the gigs, I had to know my endings up front. Some writers are journey of discovery scribes, people who start with an idea and see where it leads them. Me, I need a certain destination and a vague notion of how I'll get there. Without a destination, I'm lost.

So it is with my radio play. Find my ending, find my story. For me everything flows backwards from the endpoint. That's just the way I write. Fingers crossed I'll figure out how my radio drama ends eventually. Until then, guess I'll keep plugging away at other projects. One day my ending will come.

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