The writing process, writing advice, and updates on your work in progress
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Post by EMC » June 16th, 2010, 11:02 am

I am on Novel 2 - unfortunately novel 1 is still a WIP as I seem to have a problem that I was wondering did anyone else encounter/suffer from- not being able to END the @£$%$£ book. :)
With novel 1 I barely planned - it was based on an idea that quickly took a detour to crazy town and is going to need massive overhauls - removing all the fantasy element is only the beginning. eep.
Novel 2 I thought I planned more, but I seem to be only able to get to about Chapter 8 before coming to a standstill.
Does anyone have this or better yet, ideas on how to over come it? I'm starting a Masters in Creative writing in Oct and would like to have at least one if not both novels finished. Plus, I don't have much hair left after PULLING IT ALL OUT!!

Thanks in advance!

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Re: Endings

Post by r louis scott » June 16th, 2010, 11:12 am

On my current wip, the ending revealed itself to me about four months before I ended up really needing it, so I wrote it all down and put it in a safe place.

I have another novel in the works and I kind of sort of almost know how it ends.

I have a short story that sat around unfinished for almost a year and a half before I figured out how it ended.

While these episodes from my own experience probably don't give you much help, I hope it serves to illustrate that you are not alone. I could never see myself outlining a story from start to finish, and even if I did things would likely veer off into a ditch around the fourth or fifth page. Play with other projects if you get stuck. Read all of the entries in Nathan's first page contest thread. Distract yourself. Things will work out if you are patient.

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Re: Endings

Post by polymath » June 16th, 2010, 12:02 pm

Endings are for transformations as beginnings are for introductions. Most often in narratives, a central character is changed in unequivocal, irrevocable ways. What's different about a character at the ending from the beginning?

In character genre, typically, personality traits are different in endings, private internalities and/or public reputations. In action genre (event), externalities are different, the villain defeated, criminal apprehended, the damsel saved, the dragon slain, etc. In idea genre, the change is new ways of perceiving traditional or conventional or contemporary paradigms, for example, a narrative with an ensemble cast comes to a startling revelation regarding global warming, war, cosmic phenomena, love, or some such thematic topic.

In setting genre, the setting is transformed by the actions of otherwise static characters, not necessarily physically altered but changed in situation or circumstance. Not that static is a negative narrative property, only that characters aren't appreciably changed by events, ideas, or settings. An example of a setting narrative, though character, idea, and event play plot roles as well, Lewis Carrol's Alice in Wonderland. Wonderland is appreciably changed by Alice's intrusion. The same could be said about Frank Baum's Wizard of Oz saga. Lord of the Rings too. Is Frodo appreciably changed, or is Middle Earth what's really changed?

The classic poetics term for transformation is peripetia or reversal. Of course, reversals occur at all a plot's benchmarks, some are minor chords, some are major chords. A standard ending reversal is a satisfactorily antagonism/conflict resolving one caused by a Final Cause depicted in a resolving crisis.

However, there are modern narrative forms where there is no appreciable transformation of anything, no overt antagonism or conflict either. Nothing within the story space appreciably changes from beginning to ending. James Joyce's Ulysses is often cited as an example of a plot without transformation in the story space. Plot movement flows due to reader rapport with central characters' everyday commonplace routines depicted as slice of life vignettes in an exotic to readers secondary reality. Also known as revelation plots, where the revelation occurs in readers' meaning spaces, not the narrative's meaning space. O. Henry's classic "Gift of the Magi" is a short story with a "trick" twist revelation ending, but with character transformations as well.

Graduate creative writing programs require a completed, publishable quality book length manuscript presented to a thesis committee before graduation. Getting a head start and keeping up with it assures success and avoids crunch time in the thesis project final semester during which the thesis is presented to the committee for review and defense. Many programs require circulation of the thesis to the committe in the early weeks of the final semester. Many programs require a formal thesis proposal and approval in the early months of matriculation, like the first semester, so an appropriate thesis advisor can be assigned. The early bird gets the worm.
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Re: Endings

Post by heyimkt » June 16th, 2010, 1:38 pm

Usually when I first start a WIP, it's the beginning that really hits me. From there, the middle will typically flow, but when the ending hits me... That can be anytime. Like you're saying, it bothers me too either not having or not knowing the ending and I think sometimes it makes it harder to write. I'm more than halfway finished with my current WIP and I hardly know the ending. I think the best thing to do is just keep writing because it's gotten you this far in your novel and the characters will help you get to and figure out the best ending.

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Re: Endings

Post by karenbb » June 16th, 2010, 8:08 pm

I'll offer a similar answer to the one I gave to your earlier topic. I honestly believe that you have to let the ending come to you. Think about it. A lot. Think about it before you go to bed, when you're taking a shower, when you're driving to work, whatever. Write down the bits and pieces that come to you and most importantly, listen to your characters. If you worry more about the plot than you do about the characters, it will feel forced in the end.

Also, you might need to consider that if what you're contemplating as the end doesn't seem like an end, it might not be. I learned that with my current MS...the point in the story that I thought was the end is now in the middle of the book and I hacked off the beginning of the story.

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Re: Endings

Post by Down the well » June 16th, 2010, 10:46 pm

I seem to have more of a "beginnings" problem. Can't seem to write a compelling opening. I'm fine once I get past the introductions, but...blah.

Anyway, I think if you are the type of writer that doesn't outline then it can be trickier to wind your away around to an ending that makes sense. I don't outline chapter by chapter either, but I tend to know where I'm going when I begin to write. I know - in a general sense - what my ending is when I begin, and I allow myself to take whatever path makes the most sense (or fun) to get there. There's some crazy stuff that happens in my novel that I never planned for, but since I knew where I was going it never really tripped me up.

If you are already half-way or more through your novel and don't know how to end it - take a break. Let it incubate. Your subconscious will work on it for you, and if you give it some time a solution will probably come to you. Or you could do what Phillipa Gregory (The Other Bolyn Girl) does - she says she packs a lunch and starts walking when she has a problem she can't figure out. She tells herself she must keep walking and not turn around until she finds a solution, no matter how far, and usually before she's eaten the lunch she's found what she was looking for.

Good luck.

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Re: Endings

Post by JABrown » June 17th, 2010, 10:57 am


First post here (after my introductory one).

I am a definite outliner writer, to a smaller or larger extent depending on the book I'm writing. Personally, I want to make sure I have a clear idea of my destination before I start out, a goal to aim for.

Recently when planning endings, I found the following advice from Jim Butcher to be quite useful:
A story climax is, in structure terms the ANSWER to the STORY QUESTION that we talked about earlier.
Therefore, if you are having difficulty working out your ending, it might be a good idea to have a think about your beginning and work out exactly what your story question is. The story question is - in general terms - whether the main character(s) will reach the goal set for him(/them) at the start of your story.

An example:

When Frodo Baggins inherits the Ring of Power from his Uncle Bilbo, HE SETS OUT TO DESTROY IT before its evil can wreak havoc upon Middle Earth. BUT WILL HE SUCCEED when the Dark Lord Sauron and every scary evil thing on the planet set forth to take the ring and use it to turn the entire world into the bad parts of New Jersey?

The answer:


That gives you an initial idea of your climax - Frodo succeeds in his goal. From there, you can start asking yourself the question of how, which might help you develop an ending.

If you want to check out some more of these ideas, here is the link:


Personally, I found it really helpful.

Good luck!!!


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Re: Endings

Post by xouba » June 17th, 2010, 5:07 pm

I've got zero real experience with this, because I've never finished anything than short stories. And even so, I just improvised. In one of them I'm happy with the result, but it was the exception. So, take my advice with a (big) grain of salt.

My opinion: a bad ending is better than no ending. I believe that many times we don't find a "good ending" because we fear spoiling our "opus" with something not good enough. We have high expectations. We're afraid of compromise: why settle for some ending, if we know that it's not the best ending we can think of? We fear to finish our WIP and some day think of a new, super-duper ending that would have made us bestselling authors. But that's not what happens usually: instead, we hesitate to put an ending to our WIP, and it remains in the unfinished state until the end of times. At least that's what happens to me.

So, my advice: put an ending to your work as soon as you can. If it's good, you'll be glad you did. It'll fit your story, and maybe give you some new ideas that you hadn't thought about. And if it's bad, you'll know instantly, and think: "no, this is not what I want". You'll have a clearer view of your objective, the Right Ending for your work.

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Re: Endings

Post by wildheart » June 18th, 2010, 1:01 am

I'm not sure what advice to give you because I don't know if you have ever finished a first draft before. If so...how did the ending come to you? If you haven't, then there could be many reasons you can't find one:

1) Your novel isn't going in the direction it needs to be. If this is the case you might just have to not give it an ending and start your revision now. I have heard of authors doing this before. And because it is a first draft that is okay. 2) You are being too hard on yourself. If I stress myself out and try to force something out I tend to draw blanks. Maybe if you spend some time not writing the answer will come to you. 3) You don't have any clue how you want to end your book. If this is the case come up with a list of all the threads you have started, all the characters and situations you put into motion and come up with different ways of how to end things. Sorry if this made no sense, I need some sleep. :D

One thing you really need to do is read through everything you have and make notes of elements that you bring up over and over again. Those would be considered your promises, which means those are things you have to write an ending about. If you don't like the stuff you keep bringing up you can downplay them and come up with other ideas as well. But that is another matter entirely.

That is how I come up with endings at least. It has to be logical and based on what I talked about in the beginning and middle, yet still be surprising. That can be really stressful but fun as well.

Hope this helps.
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Re: Endings

Post by Username » June 18th, 2010, 1:22 pm

There's an extremely funny novel titled 'The Wonder Boys' in which Grady Tripp, the professor/novelist, can't finish his new novel, which clocks in at 2,611 pages. This is why some people will commence writing their novel by writing the ending first - because now they have something to steer towards.

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Re: Endings

Post by Bryan Russell/Ink » June 18th, 2010, 1:43 pm

Username wrote:There's an extremely funny novel titled 'The Wonder Boys' in which Grady Tripp, the professor/novelist, can't finish his new novel, which clocks in at 2,611 pages.
I think they were single-spaced pages, too. :)
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Re: Endings

Post by JessByam » June 18th, 2010, 3:17 pm

I thought I knew how my book was going to end. I wrote the climax before I wrote the beginning, and I had the ending all figured out years before I actually wrote out the words. But when I actually finished the novel, the last chapter completely surprised me. It was not what I expected at all and I felt like I had so much left to say, but every time I would try to write more, I just couldn't do it.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I agree with those who said that "the ending has to come to you" or "let the characters tell you how it ends." As you write, pay attention to the little details--the way your characters change because of what's happening to them, little things they notice that mean something (symbolically or otherwise), etc. Use those clues to help you build your ending, but also be prepared for the possibility that things may change and that's okay.

The ending may not be what I had originally planned, but it is the perfect ending for my book. Let your story surprise you.

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Re: Endings

Post by danjam » June 20th, 2010, 2:54 am

EMC, sounds like you could benefit from more rigorous plotting.

A book I found extremely helpful in this regard is James Scott Bell's Plot & Structure: (Techniques And Exercises For Crafting A Plot That Grips Readers From Start To Finish)

This way, with my own WIP, I keep the end in mind from page one of the first draft. (Although pushing through and actually writing to the end is also no easy task!)

Good luck!

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Re: Endings

Post by midenianscholar » June 25th, 2010, 10:11 am

When I got to the climax of my first manuscript, I had absolutely no idea what to do. It's interesting, because when I read back now I can totally see when I hit the wall. My writing style changed (for the worse), my sentences were wobbly... everything screamed, "I'm just making this up now, k?"

The problem: I hated it. Everyone I showed it to hated it. But none of us could figure out what the right ending would be.

The solution: I stepped back from the story and gave it over to my family members (who acted as the primarily editors). Which sounds sort of lame, but my sister is a writer and my dad is one of the best editors I've ever met--even better than some of my professors. I let everyone but my dad read the whole thing. With my dad, I stopped him before he could read the climax. Then I sat down with him for three hours talking about what he expected to see in the climax, what he thought needed to be resolved. It was just the thing I needed.

I recommend that you find someone you trust for their opinion and their honesty. They don't have to read the manuscript (though that would be great)--you can just give them the details of what's going on. Then discuss it over coffee and brainstorm. You might be surprised how much help you get just by talking it out.

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Re: Endings

Post by Claudie » June 25th, 2010, 2:02 pm

midenianscholar wrote:I recommend that you find someone you trust for their opinion and their honesty. They don't have to read the manuscript (though that would be great)--you can just give them the details of what's going on. Then discuss it over coffee and brainstorm. You might be surprised how much help you get just by talking it out.
This. This is so true. I have a friend with whom I go on hours-long walks, and it has helped me worked out difficult sections of novels so often I stopped counting. Find someone to bounce ideas off.
"I do not think there is any thrill [...] like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success... Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything." -- Nikola Tesla

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