When writing a compelling story, you want your readers to be constantly guessing as to how it might end, and how everything will be resolved. That curiosity is what keeps people turning the pages faster and faster. That power of the unknown is what draws in readers and keeps them interested. But did you ever think that that same force of curiosity might be used on yourself, the author, to get you to the end of your manuscript? After all, most writers say that they hit a rough spot around 30,000 words no matter what kind of story they’re writing. To get over that hump, keep yourself guessing and keep the ending a secret — even from yourself!
This week’s nugget of advice comes from Rookie Mag’s Ten Rules for Writers, a truly awesome list of tidbits for writers to consider. Rule #5 on this list is “Try not to know how it ends.” At first glance, this looks like a terrifying bit of advice. At least, it does to me. I’m the kind of writer who enjoys outlining the hell out of their story before they even begin to write. I like to know lots of details and have a cache of information about my story stashed away in case I need to refer back to it. This includes what the ending of the story will be. But I think that this “keep yourself guessing” idea is a good one. As the Rookie Mag article says:
Curiosity is a powerful force. Don’t let go of it. When you’re about to write a story or a chapter, take control of the situation and of your characters’ motives, but always let yourself be surprised by the twists in the plot.
I like that this mentions even keeping yourself in the dark about how a chapter might end. If you don’t have a completely clear picture of where your characters will end up, you’ll be more open to taking advantage of revelations that occur during the writing process. So try out this advice, if you’d like, and write with no clear ending in mind. You never know where you’ll end up!
— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan