I think I just figured out the right way to end my current WIP. It’s not going to be pretty, and it’s so far off the original ending in my outline, it’s ridiculous. But it’s going to be good – surprising, poignant, and and ironic (I hope).
Why the ending matters
You can have a great start to a book – and you have to in order to get people to read past the first page or chapter – but the ending is just as important.
The ending is what people are likely to remember most after reading the book. If it was a bad ending, they’re likely to remember the book a little differently, pick out more flaws, and write a less favorable review based more on the ending and how it made them feel.
The ending must be satisfying, even if the book is part of a series. The ending has to wrap up the book and the story in a way that answers most of the reader’s questions and leaves them satisfied, and, if you’re lucky, wanting to read another book of yours – sequel or not.
Why this ending has to happen
It’s not going to be fun for me to write, I can say that much. But it’s not about what I want to have happen anymore. It’s more about the characters, and the most logical way for their story to conclude. I say logical because an ending should be logical. An illogical ending reads like a Greek play, and I truly detest deus ex machina.
The ending I have in mind has just come to me over the past week or two as I’m about 15 to 20,000 words from finishing (the first draft, that is). I scoffed at the idea at first – it was too crazy even to consider! Anyone who read it would be supremely pissed off. And then I thought: maybe not. They would be disappointed that things worked out in such a way, but not so disappointed that they’d be upset about it.
Then, the irony opportunity hit me, and I knew I had no choice but to end the book this way. The pieces of it fit together so perfectly now that it would be a little pathetic and even boring to end the book the way I had originally written it in my outline.
I’m still at least 15k words from finishing, though these new developments may mean the first draft runs a little longer than I was expecting, which is a pleasant surprise for me. When I started this story, I wasn’t sure if it would even make it to novel-length. I thought it might make a nice short story or novella, but I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to tell it and manipulate it into a longer story. I’m so pleased with how far I’ve come and how far the story’s come – especially since I haven’t written this genre before – but It’s going to need a LOT of work if I ever want to do anything with it.
The multiple character perspectives are good, and I think it makes the story more interesting, but, as usual, my narration could use a little work, and in those parts in particular, I need to work on the “showing vs. telling” bit. Unfortunately, though we writers know all the “rules” to good storytelling, it’s not always easy or natural to implement them during a rough draft. It usually takes another few drafts, and the return of the harsh editor in us to be able to bring those rules and practices into the story and make them work.
In any case, I’m hoping to wrap this up in the next week or so, and start with something new for July’s Camp Nano session! I’ve got a completely different type of story in mind, and though it’s more of a familiar genre, it’s going to be no less challenging. I could stand to do a little more outlining, but we’ll see what kind of time I have between now and July 1st.
P.S./Fun Fact: For all you non-movie buffs out there, the title of this post comes from a line in A Knight’s Tale with Heath Ledger. It’s Paul Bettany’s line as they’re writing William’s poetic letter back to Jocelyn. If you haven’t seen that movie, do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s funny, has great music, and if you can say no to Heath Ledger, you’re a stronger person than I am.
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