Most of you know Hugh Laurie as the irascible Gregory House, doctor extraordinaire, human being just barely. But years ago he and his best bud and comedy partner Stephen Fry played the leads in A&E’s televisation of some of P. G. Wodehouse‘s Jeeves and Wooster stories. Track them down if you like a good story and some 1930s English wit.
In one adventure, Bertie (that is, Bertram Wilberforce Wooster, whose last name was, in the mists of the distant past spelled “Worcester” like the shired sauce you put on your burger) and his greatest detractor, Sir Roderick Glossop, are both in black face (as in, we were going minstrelling down the pub with Al Jolson) hiding in the shrubbery outside Glossop’s own house, tearing and dirtying their formal dinnerwear (that would be tuxedos.)
How in blazes did they get there?
That is the point of the book. Every incident, from page one, was designed to lead to that point, and everything from their forward is how Jeeves resolves all the problems which have cropped up as Bertie bumbles his way toward this unlikely yet inevitable scene.
Wodehouse actually wrote his books like that. Millions of them. That’s an exaggeration, but the man’s professional writing career spanned 73 years.
No, not his life. His professional career.
Sold his first newspaper story at 21, and was working on yet another Jeeves and Wooster book when he died (probably of exhaustion) at 93. His final tally was nearly 100 books. That doesn’t include Broadway plays, movie scripts, song lyrics, and whatnot.
If you ignore all wise counsel about pinning down the 9 critical waypoints for your novel before you begin, at the very least, know the ending. Know where you intend this thing to go.
All who wander are not lost, that’s what the bumper sticker said. But if you’re wandering as you write, you’re expending creativity, time, energy on multiple paths you never needed to take to get home, to the place where it says The End.
A destination. Don’t leave home without it.
Know the ending first and write toward it.