I finally finally finally worked my way through the climax of this story. I think shifting a load of coal would have been easier. Dirtier, but easier. This was bloody hard work.
I was trying to describe the process to writer friends, thinking there ought to be a very good analogy for it. The best I could come up with is having a massive snarl in your hair where you have to go back and comb and comb this bit and that bit until you get it all worked out. But that's not quite accurate either.
See, here's how my process works. (And "works" is a very loose term.) I write largely linearly. In that I start at the beginning and write to the end. Ideally, that is. I do occasionally write out scenelets and snippets out of order as inspiration strikes. And I do spend an awful lot of time backtracking. This usually happens when I get stuck. I get stuck because something I've written previously is wrong and I just have to go back and rewrite until I figure it out. This is why the shitty first draft has never worked for me. My brain just doesn't work that way.
Now the problem with the climax is that it's not only the point where the action of the book leads, the point where the problem posed to the main character is resolved (or not, as the story desires,) but it is also where the theme of the book--er--crystallizes. Or something.
My problem is that I almost never know what my theme is. No different with this project. Naturally, that complicated figuring out how the climax should play out. I had to keep writing out thoughts and dialogue that weren't going to end up in the scene in order for me to understand what was really going on with the characters.
The climax was the first time we really "see" this pivotal character. Her presence has been felt all along, but now she finally gets a voice and the opportunity to give her side of things. I don't think I realized until I started writing it out just how important that was. Suddenly, I couldn't make her do what I thought she had to do in order to bring my climax around to a resolution.
Instead, I had to go back to this event that had happened long before the action of the book, an event that I had already described from another character's POV. I had to understand it from hers. Even though she takes up such a small amount of page space, understanding her is important. Understanding why she is doing what she's doing is crucial for my MC because the final choice is going to come down to her.
One of the great challenges of this book has been letting go my notions of what a book should do and be (structurally, mainly) and allowing this book to roll out the way it needs to roll out. Be what it wants to be. I think I've been resisting that all along. First, I've been resisting the length the book needs to be. And maybe I've been resisting what the book is really about. That I'm not sure of because I think that will be revealed as I work through the denouement.
So that's the next challenge. I'm still not sure what my MC thinks about all that has happened! If I can figure that out, I may very soon be able to write "The End!"