This year, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to write five days a week. So far, that resolution is going pretty well. Although there have been a few nights when the latest episode of “Agent Carter” takes precedence over my writing progress, I’ve been continuing to add words to last November’s National Novel Writing Month project. This week, when I sat down to continue writing, I realized that the ending is in sight.
At first, this was a slightly scary thought. It dawned on me that I wasn’t sure how this was all going to wrap up. I just finished writing a climactic and dramatic scene that involved some characters fighting a pretty fierce demon, and I was so focused on finishing it that I wasn’t thinking what might come next. In the outline that I wrote last November, the ending was a sort of vague “everything gets resolved” kind of bullet point, so there wasn’t much guidance to be had there. I knew, though, that I had to think seriously about it now.
Endings can be complicated. Some folks are either a beginnings person or an endings person. Personally, I’m neither. I prefer the middle of a story, when you’re deep in the weeds of what you’re writing and can barely hack your way through the rough underbrush of everything you’re creating. But endings have to happen eventually. If you want to place the “finished” stamp on a project, you need to come to a conclusion. You might consider whether you want your ending to be happy or sad, abrupt or drawn-out, epic or soft-spoken. Do you want everything to be sewn up, or do you want to leave some loose ends?
Lucky for me, I had one of those great shower revelations (revelations that come to you in the shower) about how to round out my own story. This week I plan to follow those roughly scrawled notes of mine straight to the finish line on this first draft. If you’re having trouble coming up with an ending for your story, I suggest studying the endings of some of your favorite stories. Then consider what your characters have been through and where you would like them to end up. Happy writing!
We’ve already talked about story openings on this blog, along with everything that comes after, now let’s talk about endings. Endings can be contentious in the literary world. People have disavowed entire book series because of the way they end. A good ending can also save a book, though. Endings are also incredibly tricky to write. It’s hard to bring your story to a conclusion that is satisfying for both you and the reader. Of course, you may never be satisfied with the story. But you have to find an ending that is at least passable and doesn’t make you want to burrow your head in the ground.
At the beginning of a writing project, the ending can feel so far away as to be almost unreachable. But the ending begins when you set down the first word of your story, and it’s good to be thinking about it then as well. On her blog, Sarah Perlmutter has this to say about endings: “Having an ending in mind allows you to insert some of those deeper, richer layers into your writing, like foreshadowing. It also helps you develop your character arc, and plot. An ending is a finish line, a goal, and having it in mind–even if you have nothing else planned–will be like an anchor, pulling you deeper into your story as you write it.”
Although I usually don’t follow this advice, I think it’s good to keep in mind! If you have a picture of where you’ll end up, you can insert clues to that ending along the way. Of course, if you find it difficult to think up endings from the get-go (like me), you can always let the story take you where it may and then insert those little clues during the edit or rewrite. An ending does give you a sense of purpose, though, so it would be beneficial to plan ahead. I can concede that point, I just probably won’t follow through on it. But you should!
When this post goes live, National Novel Writing Month will be coming to an end. That means that many NaNo-ers will be bringing their novels to a close as well. But not necessarily! Remember that 50,000 words is basically a good-sized novella. If you want to create a real first draft, you could easily continue writing for another 20,000 words. So if November is ending, but your novel isn’t ready to say goodbye, don’t fret! Just keep writing!