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!
In the world of the internet, there is a concept known as “fancasting.” In a nutshell, this means that you take a favorite book and cast actors in the roles of the main characters. This often leads to people photoshopping pictures of the actors so that they look more like the characters in the book. It’s a fun exercise for fans of books, but it could also be a great exercise for writers.
Sarah Perlmutter wrote about fancasting your own characters and I think it could be a great way for writers to get more interested in their own stories. In her post, Sarah says that fancasting your own stories can help inspire you because you have a walking, talking person to imagine when you’re writing a specific character. You can even draw on an actor’s physical and vocal tics to use in your character’s makeup.
If you’re someone who gets passionate about fanfiction or fancasting books that you love to read, I would suggest trying out this method for your own work. Imagining who might play the characters you’re creating in a movie adaptation can motivate you to write, and it can also just be fun!
If you really want to get creative (and more organized), I would recommend the CharaHub website. It’s generally used for mapping out characters in a roleplaying game like Dungeons and Dragons, but writers can also use it to organize characters in their stories. I used this website for one of my past projects and was really happy with it. You can insert pictures for each character and create a full fact sheet for each one.
People often say, when you’re experiencing problems in your life, you should talk them through with someone else. Having the perspective of a third party often gives you a new outlook on what you’re facing. That third party can also give you advice for possibly solving those problems. When we bounce ideas around inside the echo chambers of our own minds, we may not find a solution so easily. Talking to other people can bring a problem out into the open and make it seem more conquerable. If this works for everyday problems, why shouldn’t it work for writing as well?
In her post about being in a writing slump, Sarah Perlmutter discusses this very topic. She says, “Talk about why you’re in a slump with someone. There may be more to it…talking to people you trust really helps. It may take you a few conversations, but eventually you’ll get there. Realizing what your roadblocks are helps you drive past them and get back to where you really want to be.”
Just as you might work out relationship problems by talking about them with a friend, you might work past a writing slump by discussing it with someone. Although it might help to discuss a slump with a fellow writer, it’s not completely necessary. In fact, talking to someone who reads books rather than writes them might give you an interesting perspective. If you have a difficult scene to write, a reader might be able to provide you with suggestions that wouldn’t have occurred to you otherwise.
In addition to providing suggestions, sometimes people are just a good sounding board. If you find someone who’s a good listener, you could even solve your problems just by giving voice to them. As you tell a friend about your inability to write, you might realize that what’s really holding you back is stress in another part of your life or the fact that you haven’t read any good books lately. Just by talking about your writing slump, you might discover its root and be able to get past it.
If you’re going through a writing slump right now, try discussing it with a friend. And if you aren’t in a slump, happy writing!
Let’s face it, folks. Writing is not always easy. You might have weeks during which your writing flows easily, but you will likely have an equal number of weeks during which you simply can’t write. The worst part is that those writing slump weeks are contagious. You might reach the end of a week, realize you haven’t gotten any writing done, and simply continue that trend. That week easily becomes two, then three, and so on. Eventually (I hope), you will come back to your writing. Sometimes you return in triumph, with a new bit of inspiration bugging your brain, and sometimes you return with your tail between your legs. When you’re crawling back to your writing project to beg its forgiveness, there’s something you can do to lessen the blow.
According to a post that Sarah Perlmutter wrote on her blog, you should allow yourself to write garbage after a writing slump. Sarah says, “After a writing slump, you will probably be at least a little bit rusty. Allow yourself to write crap, it’s okay. You can edit once you’re back in the right mindset. What’s important now is that you’re trying without pressuring yourself, and that will likely mean that you are writing garbage. That’s okay. At least you’re writing something.”
I like this idea because it takes off the pressure you might feel when returning to a project. After some time away, you’re probably feeling bad for not writing and want to do well right out of the gate. But that pressure can turn you off from the writing process even more. So, no pressure! Just get back into the swing of writing by putting down one word after another. Just get the words down. When you’re ready, you can return to that garbage and polish it up.
Right now, I’m not technically in a writing slump. I’ve only neglected my writing for a couple of days, but I can feel a slump coming on. The initial inspiration I felt with my current project has slid away and I’m beginning a chapter that I’m not especially excited about. When I get back to writing, I’m going to take Sarah’s advice. How about you?