Avoiding The End

This week, we’re talking about novel endings. Here’s typically how I get there:

Write first chapter
Check out the Spanish Cover for
Isn't it great?
Write Act One
Start Act Two, hit a wall
Fiddle with Chapter One
Fiddle with the rest of the first act
Force self to finish Act Two
Sail into Act Three
Stall toward the End
Revise first chapter
Stare at the muddle in the middle
Contemplate unwritten final chapters
Stall some more
Force self to write ending

What’s with all the procrastination of the ending (POTE)? Why is it so, SO difficult to take those last steps, after all the steps beforehand?

For me, it’s fear of completing the work and having to assess:
  • Did I accomplish what I set out to do?
  • Is this story ultimately satisfying?
Because, folks, that’s what it’s all about, right? We want to close the last page and say, ahhh….  don't we?

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received about endings, was to juxtapose your first and last chapters. When you compare the two side-by-side, your goal is to see clear growth and a direct relationship between questions raised and questions answered.

If your protagonist is wishy-washy about something in Chapter One, make them believe it, own it, reject it—it doesn’t matter what, as long as their stance has become firm--by Chapter Forty Five.

If they’re seeking knowledge, then they darn well better have it by the end.

If they’re seeking acceptance, or are in need of humility in your opening chapters, then get them there. 

Endings allow us to show growth and growth is what makes a novel ending satisfying. 

Now go forth, and End Wisely!


Read the first and last chapter side by side! Why had I never heard this advice before? I must try this -- after I get through the muddle in the middle.

LOVE the Spanish cover!

I finished "Under" yesterday and want to tell you that it is truly a really wonderful book. I was nervous the whole time.. I think that's the epitome of a job well done! :)
Plus- I imagine it must mean so much when you learn that people care about your characters as much as you do. When you know who- did you know what--(don't want to mess up w/spoilers here) I was thrilled and heart-broken at the same time.
They were real to me..if only for a time, and that must be the greatest accomplishment a writer can achieve. I can't wait to feel that for myself!!!

I am thisclose to writing my ending. Within a few pages. I'm feeling weird about it- so your post was timely and helpful.

Your posts--all of you guys'posts--are such an inspiration to all us "aspirings" out here.

Rock on!!

I agree with Katherine on the first/last chapter comparison. Great, great idea. But I feel like you been holdin' back this sage advice, Veronica!

Such great, helpful posts this week, each full of valuable information and advice. This is why I am hooked on the Muses. I really appreciate the info!

Compare the first and last chapters.

Got it.

Okay...not about that last chapter...yeah, I'm suffering a bit of POTE because I'm redoing my ending after losing a few thousand words. I think that was a good thing. The ending I'm going for now seems to include more of a climax and resolution feel and not quite leaving readers hanging to dry.

Thank you for this really good advice.

At a revision intensive, Deborah Halverson gave similar advice--take your protagonist from the beginning and try to drop her in the end. If the transfer works too easily, she hasn't grown enough.

Not a writer, just a reader- but I wanted to say... that is really great advice.

.... I just wish I would have known that in school... maybe my papers would have stood a better chance :P

But really- hadn't thought about that before!

Thank you, Katy!
Janet, so glad you liked UTNS and go, go, go! Cross that finish line and celebrate!
Bret- I've got plenty of tricks up my sleeve still ; )
PB, we are hooked on you, too!
Angela - it sounds like you're on the right path. Good luck with finishing up!
Beth - yes, I like that, too! It's really useful, isn't it? Coranne - You made me laugh. If only we knew all the things post-school that we know now!

Not really related to this post, but I wanted to tell you I turned the San Luis Obispo youth librarian on to UNDER THE NEVER SKY (and all the Muses).

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