I'm happy to have the ability to write a coherent plot with a beginning, middle, and an end. I mean, it would be hard to write a book without it.

But sometimes I think I glide into the ending. That is, I've figured it out and I'm filling it in as ordered, and everything is neat and tidy.

And I don't think that's a good thing.

Yesterday, I figured out I have 9 chapters to write. The first three chapters are further development of the different characters in the three camps, the middle three chapters are all of them moving toward each other, and the final three chapters are the climactic battle.

Neat and tidy.

It's got a certain symmetry, the three camps are paralleling each other in a nice way.

If you think of it as architecture, it's like building the three sections of the house, the middle part and two wings. But while for a house, a nice symmetry is what you want; for a story, I wonder if it isn't more interesting to have one of the wings just go flying off into unexpected directions, maybe both wings, maybe the middle too.

It can't be too predictable, but it also can't be non-nonsensical.

I try to have surprises within the architecture, but I'm not sure that completely makes up for it.

Anyway, I'm looking at this wonderfully concise and ordered ending and wondering where I can't mess it up a little.

I read the first new chapter to Linda last night, and that was pretty much her critique (without even knowing my thinking).

I have a nice orderly chapter and she said, "That's nice, dear, but what about...?"

And she reminds me that the characters are in jeopardy and that I've got them talking like they're all hunky dory, and she's completely right and it was obvious, but somehow I missed it.

That's why secondary readers are so important. I'm so lucky with Linda because she manages to be completely supportive, but she also seems to catch when I've gone off track a little.

Another example was my Snaked book. I had a nice neat ending, and Linda reminded me that it seemed a little too pat, so I tried to fix that. But then, when I submitted the book to a publisher, he pointed out that while I had glided into a nice neat ending with the tsunami, but had dropped the snakes.

Well, the snakes are all the way through, but they do take a secondary importance, and I just assumed that the snakes were sort of stranded by the tsunami and that was that.

But he was right that I had not resolved the snakes story line in a satisfactory way. Thankfully, I was able to write 4 brand new chapters (4 out of the last 8, including the last chapter) with snakes and come to a more danger filled and hopefully cathartic ending.

I've always struggled with the idea of having outlines. I've decided they aren't for me. Too much of the story is created as I go along, not by some cold logical design.

Outlines can keep you from writing yourself into a corner. But the danger of having an outline, even if you allow yourself to stray, is that it tends to be too pre-ordained, at least to me. For me, once I've figured out a story, it's almost impossible to change it.

I prefer to remain in the glimmer moment when I'm playing with the possibilities, and it isn't frozen. That's where the fun surprises happen, when a secondary character suddenly takes on life, where the plot suddenly veers in an exciting direction.

But inevitably, when writing a book, the plot comes in full. That's when the danger of painting by numbers come in. It's all arranged, I'm just writing to order.

And I don't really want that.

So the question I'm starting each day with is--where can I fuck this up?