Writing the Denouement

The first few novellas I attempted to write had abrupt endings. Apparently I thought that a reader who was left with a moment of high drama or a new concept to chew on would close my book (or turn off their Kindle) and spend the next 24 hours mulling over the new and amazing ideas I’d sparked with my magnificent story.

Then I realized one of the reasons for the denouement. For the purposes of this blog, we’ll define denouement as everything that happens after the climax. At least for modern readers, life moves too fast for them to close a book, close their eyes, and let their thoughts roam. They are called to their text messages or chauffeuring their kid to karate class. After a reader finds out what happened, and the story is all wrapped up, they need time to digest the story. And they will take the time if there are more words for them to look at.

My thought, and this may change with more experience of course, is that it hardly matters what happens during the denouement. In fact, I think as little as possible should be introduced to the reader at this time. Vocabulary should be chosen purposefully to foster a general feeling, but mostly you are providing time for your readers to have their own thoughts about your characters, and indeed, their own lives.

I’m trying to teach myself, here. Everything I write is too short. So let’s do an assignment together. Find three of your favorite novels. Find the moment when the climactic action is over, and count how many pages are left. How does this number compare to the total page count of the book? What does the author say during the denouement? Tell me your findings in the comments.

On Writer’s Block

One of the questions that comes up most often from writers is “How do you get over writer’s block?” I’ve heard many answers to this, but here’s mine:

Writer’s block does not exist.

I’m talking here to fiction writers especially. When I worked for an SEO company and had to find a 25th thing to say about house painting or asbestos removal on a tight deadline, yes I hit a wall. There’s really only so much to say about asbestos and its natural state and its uses and its dangers and its removal.

But when it comes to writing fiction, I truly believe that there is no such thing as writer’s block. So let’s talk about two situations in which you might think “I have writer’s block.”

When You’re Starting a New Project

Two issues you might have before starting a project are too many ideas and not enough ideas. With too many ideas, you might be afraid you won’t start “the right one.” It’s not like deciding to have a baby, friends. If you get more excited about another one in a few days, you can switch. Flip a coin. You don’t have writer’s block.

If you have no ideas, what works for me is watching a super creative movie at night (some suggestions are Ben Stiller’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and the 2014 version of The Little Prince) and then letting my mind wander as I’m lying in bed. Your creativity is not gone, you are stifling it. Don’t think “what will work for a plot” (unless that’s what works for you), let your mind wander. What is the most fantastic thing that your subconscious mind wants to take you to?

By the way, it’s okay to be in this stage where you let the thoughts swirl around in your brain. That’s not writer’s block, that’s part of writing.

In the Middle of a Book

Maybe your “writer’s block” happened in mid book. You just don’t know what to write next. Again I say, this is not writer’s block. This is part of writing. You are figuring out what to write next. What you write next will affect countless parts of your storyline later in the book, and your brain is doing an amazing job sorting all that out. It’s probably figuring out plot and character points that you aren’t even consciously aware of. You are not blocked, you are thinking.

Sometimes this part of writing might involve getting a fellow writer’s input. Sometimes it might involve more researching online about something your character is interested in, be it astronomy or feng shui, than actual writing time.

If you’ve gone a month or so with no perceptible progress, it might be time to either work on something else for a while, or as I do, force yourself to write something even if it’s bad. I have almost never had to delete what I’ve forced myself to write. It usually gets me going again and I’m back on track.

Say it with me. Writer’s block does not exist.

Happy writing!

M.L. Millard

 

 

 

Why A Day Without A Woman Accomplished Nothing

Yesterday my husband texted me asking if I could take our daughter to piano lessons instead of his taking her. He needed to take one of his school’s instruments to the repair shop. I wrote back that I could, but that it was one of the things I wasn’t supposed to do on “A Day Without a Woman.” He texted back and said “I will figure it out. No worries.”

He respected the day even though he knows that he already appreciates how much women do. So what happened to the tuba? The other band teacher, MY HUSBAND’S FEMALE COWORKER, TOOK IT IN! No, no, no, no no!

This is why A Day Without a Woman accomplished nothing. So many women I knew said that they just could not let the ball drop. Their job was too important. THAT’S THE POINT. Your job IS too important not to be done, and if we don’t show that to the country and the people in charge, and we don’t show them that we won’t continue to work for less money and we won’t stand by and watch our rights be stripped by a man who doesn’t respect women (no matter what he says) and his sycophantic largely male followers.

Did you know that there are only two women in 45’s cabinet? One is Betsy DeVos, and one is married to Mitch McConnell, the majority leader of the senate and a very important person for 45 to have on his side.

And so my husband’s school will have their best, shiniest tuba in the concert tonight. Was it worth it? Could they have found a less shiny tuba to use today? (Yes.) Might the student have understood and played their less shiny tuba in solidarity? (Probably.)

I recognize that not every woman can strike. By all means, if you won’t be able to feed your kids or if you are performing heart surgery, please don’t strike!

But otherwise. Women, we could shut this thing down. We could make the country come to a grinding halt. But we didn’t. Why? 1. Some of us don’t think things are bad enough to protest about. We don’t get executed for having affairs, I guess. And 2. We have an epidemic of codependency. We need to think we can’t be spared for a day.

But that’s the point. The country CAN’T run without us for a day, and next time we have a Day Without a Woman, maybe things will have gotten so bad that more people will realize we need to show the country just how dependent on us they are.

Why Don’t Some Women Like Feminists?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot on this International Women’s Day. Why do some women trash feminism? I want to write this quickly so I can share it today, so here are a few reasons that came to me. They’re just initial ideas, so don’t come down on me too harshly!

They Don’t Know What “Feminist” Really Means

They’ve been told that feminists think women are better than men. They’ve been told (sometimes by feminist women) that they shouldn’t wear high heels and makeup, when really feminism means they’re free to be any kind of woman they want, so long as they respect other women’s rights to do the same. I hate makeup, but I don’t think YOU have to hate makeup!

They Have Misplaced Self Esteem

They’ve been taught that they are the gender whose value lies in outer beauty. They’ve been taught that being a helpful wife is their highest goal. Being a helpful wife is a GREAT thing, but it’s not the only thing. They think it’s wrong to fight for equal rights, which is really sad.

They Are Actually Men

Some of the sexy profile pics of women on Twitter are actually men. Horrible, terrible men. To be clear, I don’t mean that all men are horrible and terrible.

Feminism is simply equality. Feminists come in all shapes and sizes and shoes and hairstyles and careers, and even genders. Feminists gave us the right to vote, and now they will get us equal pay and equal representation in upper government and movie directing and CEO’s. Happy International Women’s Day. We’ve got a little way to go, and feminists are the only ones who are going to get us there.

Day 61: Seeking First His Kingdom (61 days of worry-free devotions)

I hope you have discovered a lot about His kingdom. I hope you have found that you’ve worried less about getting food on the table and other daily worries while seeking His kingdom instead. I know that any epiphanies you’ve had, any comfort you’ve found, any changes you’ve made, come from the power of His word, and not from my little comments. Still, it’s been nice to search with a friend. Thank you!

As we finish our reading of all the “kingdom” verses, I ask you to continue to seek His kingdom by seeking its king. I leave you with (the resurrected) Jesus’s last moments with his followers. Do you think he was talking to them only or that he knew Luke would record it, and that we would read it, and that it’s meant for us, too? Acts 1:1-11 starts with Luke’s words:

The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. To these He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs,appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. And gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard from Me; for John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” And so when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know the times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them; and they also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”

M.L. Millard

*New American Standard Bible verses used in the book version of this devotional with permission from The Lockman Foundation.

Day 60: Seeking First His Kingdom (61 days of worry-free devotions)

When Jesus was talking to Pilate (basically His trial) He said:

My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”

John 18:36

Jesus had stopped Peter from using his sword (18:11) when the officers from the chief priests and Pharisees had come for Him, because He knew it was His destiny to die for us.

Tangent alert. In theory, I extend this to mean that I should be a pacifist. Many don’t. In practice, one time I saw a young man knock down an older woman as he tried to rip her diamond necklace off of her neck, and if I had been close enough I knew I would have kicked his feet out from under him and tackled him. To be sure, there are other verses that lean toward pacifism, too, like not casting the first stone, loving and blessing your enemies…

But back to the only clear meaning. Jesus could have had his servants fight to save Him. Indeed, many of them at first expected Him to try to set up and rule a kingdom here on Earth at that time. Instead, He went willingly to the cross.

Amazing.

What kingdom statement will you use to replace your worries today? I think mine will be HIS KINGDOM IS NOT OF THIS WORLD.

M.L. Millard

*New American Standard Bible verses used in the book version of this devotional with permission from The Lockman Foundation.

Day 59: Seeking First His Kingdom (61 days of worry-free devotions)

If you’re interested in what Jesus said about the end times, Luke chapter 21 is a good place to look. I’m not going to write it all here, only the end of it.

And He told them a parable: “Behold the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they put forth leaves, you see it and know for yourselves that summer is now near. Even so you, too, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near.”

Luke 21:29-31

As I near the end of this devotional, one thing I hope is that you have discovered lots of other things you want to read in your search for the kingdom. Don’t you want to read all of Luke chapter 21 now? Don’t you want to see what all the signs are? Didn’t you want to read all of Revelation and Daniel when we talked about them earlier? The sermon on the mount in Matthew chapters 5-7?

There are two other segments of Luke chapter 21 I want to include. They don’t use the word “kingdom,” but they give instructions, and I thought that might be useful or interesting to you.

“But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake. It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute.” (21:12-15)

“And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is near.” (21:27-28)

And if you wonder how you’d lift up your head in such a situation:

But Thou, O Lord, art a shield about me, my glory, and the One who lifts my head.

Psalm 3:3

What will your kingdom statement be today? Use it to replace your worries.

M.L. Millard

*New American Standard Bible verses used in the book version of this devotional with permission from The Lockman Foundation.