Nailing the Ending

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking since my last post, even though I really wasn’t supposed to. Well, I wasn’t supposed to be thinking about the outline for Second Thoughts. I meant to let it rest, except maybe for thinking about a new title. That is not what happened. For one thing, I didn’t come up with a new title.

I also spent a lot of time thinking about the outline. I know I said it was promising, and I still think it is, but something’s been bugging me about it. After a bit, I managed to figure out what the problem was. The ending. It just wasn’t right.

Of course, from the moment I realized that, it immediately became almost impossible to NOT think about the ending, what exactly was wrong with it and how to fix it. So much for my intention of not working on it at all for a bit. πŸ˜‰

See, what I always come back to in building a story is that the ending is the last thing people will read. Okay, yes, that sounds obvious, but think about it. The ending is the last impression they have of your story, and what they’ll likely remember when they consider your next story. But it’s more than that, at least to me.

After all the work I’ve done, not to mention all that the characters have been through, the ending has to be good. They deserve it. The reader deserves it. I mean that. The reader deserves a good book, and that includes the ending. Maybe it’s especially including the ending.

I don’t know if anyone else has had this experience, but I once read a book that was fantastic, had the most amazing world-building and characters for most of the way through. I sat there and thought how I wanted to write a world and characters this vivid. It was a challenge I wanted to rise to.

Then I got to the ending.

It was awful. I mean, just terrible. It wasn’t just that the ending was dark. That doesn’t bother me. I mean, I read George RR Martin and enjoy it. I think the problem was that for me, the ending betrayed everything. The characters, the story that had been built up to that point, the struggles and losses that had happened along the way. And as a reader, I felt so angry about that, so let down and hurt, that I swore I’d never read that author again.

I don’t know that I’d blow an ending that badly. If I did, it certainly wouldn’t see the light of day, let alone reader eyeballs (assuming I knew I’d blown it like that, admittedly). But that experience made me aware of the power of a story’s ending. It’s made me wary of screwing them up too.

So, with all that in mind, I’ve been working on the ending of Second Thoughts. I’ve figured out the problem and I think I’ve corrected it. Only time and actually writing it will tell for sure. And of course, if I don’t get it right on the first draft, well, I can keep working on it. Nothing says the ending on the first draft is final, right? It’s a work in progress. If the first attempt at nailing the ending doesn’t work, I’ll just keep trying until it’s right.

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About Julie

I'm a writer and photographer. I always have something with me to take notes for ideas or writing projects I'm thinking about or have on the go. I also like to go around with my camera and take pictures of anything that strikes me as beautiful or evocative. I'm perpetually working on one story or another, while waiting for enough distance to judge the last one (or more). I'm always working on several projects at once, developing the next book, even as I'm editing the last. Beyond that, there's always plenty of scraps and twists of ideas rolling around in my head, eventually turning themselves into full blown stories.
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5 Responses to Nailing the Ending

  1. quix689 says:

    I’ve never had an experience with an ending that was *that* bad, but I completely agree with you! One of the last books I read last year was great – until I got to the end, when everything just sort of fell into place for the character. As much as I wanted her to have a happy ending, it was really annoying that she didn’t have to work for it. It was really annoying.

    On the other hand, I’ve also read books that I didn’t really like and thought I would never read the sequels to, and then the ending has made me more curious and has made me reconsider giving the sequel a chance.

    So yeah, endings are very important! πŸ™‚

  2. That’s happened to me with some books… *glares at said books* That being said, I’ve also read things that I thought were pretty okay overall but not all that impressive, but by the time the ending came around and whammed me upside the head with it’s awesomeness, I totally forgot that the rest of the story was only so-so. I completely agree about endings–they ARE important! Glad to hear you might have it worked out! πŸ™‚

  3. jmmcdowell says:

    Endings are important and should be a logical outgrowth of the story. And the reader should be able to see how the “dots connected” to get from the beginning to the end. Even if we don’t figure it out while we’re reading (like who the murderer was), the path should be clear in hindsight.

    Yep, endings can change after the first draft if that will make the story better!

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