Getting to “The End”

In all of my writing life, from essays in school to writing back cover copy to writing a novel, I must admit that I have the most trouble with the endings. I’m a good starter. I love introductions, headlines that grab you, the set-up to a story. Maybe it’s the anticipation.

Middles are good too, though perhaps not as exciting to write. It’s in the middle where the evidence builds, the bricks are being laid, the meat of what you’re trying to say starts to come out. It’s where you build to your climax.

But I’m never quite happy with my endings. I’ve always felt that my conclusions to essays were the weakest part of them. I often struggle to find the right way to end back cover copy. With my short stories, knowing where to end was the toughest part.

This is probably why I was able to write 80,000 words of my current novel in the space of 8 weeks and now I’ve slowed to a crawl as I decide how best to bring it all home. By this time an outline can’t help me. What I wrote is far better than my original outline. Anyway, I have a clear idea of what I need to write. I just question whether the pace is working or if I’m leaving the reader hanging on anything.

Rather than press on ahead I’ve decided to take a small step back to look at the whole. I’m digitizing the entire manuscript and will listen to it this week before writing more. I would prefer to listen to it all in one day, but I have this thing called a job and a family, so I guess that’s out for the moment. One nice thing about this turn of events is that it will get me off my butt for a bit. I can listen to my text on my iPod while I do the laundry and hit the treadmill. (My intensive writing schedule has me feeling tremendously slouchy.)

So while I’d like nothing more than to post on here that the manuscript is done, it needs to cook a little longer. I guess it’s all part of the process.

And see, even now I don’t know how to end this post.

3 Easy Ways to Get Back into Writing Your Book

Ideally, we would all have time to work regularly on our writing projects, never allowing the fire to cool or the story to get stale. But reality is rarely ideal. It’s reality. It’s busy times at work, kids who need love, meals that need making. Those clothes won’t wash themselves, you know. So we often find ourselves torn away from our works-in-progress for a time and they turn into works-in-the-backs-of-our-minds. Sometimes we wander away from our writing fairly purposefully when we aren’t sure what comes next.

Either way, how do you get back in the groove after an absence? Here are three easy ways…

Reread. If it’s been just a few days, reread the last chapter. If it’s been more than a week or so, read what you have written so far, from the first to the last page, to get yourself not only back into the story, but also to reorient yourself to the flow of the story thus far. It’s more than simply figuring out where to go next. It’s recapturing the flow, the voice, the tension, the characters, the setting. Immerse yourself in it as a first-time reader would and you’ll be propelled forward in the story by the momentum you’ve hopefully built up. Plus you’ll see if what you’ve written thus far still holds up after letting it rest. You can also listen to what you’ve written, which gives the story another dimension altogether.

Outline. After that, see if you can outline what happens in the next few chapters. It helps to have at least a small idea of the road ahead. Just seeing a paragraph of synopsis (which I tend to write before an actual chapter is written) can almost trick you into thinking you’ve already written that chapter and give you a small feeling of accomplishment, which you can then ride into the actual writing of that chapter. Then, when it’s written, you can go back and tweak your synopsis to match what you actually wrote. In this way you are also finishing a chapter-by-chapter synopsis to put into your book proposal later. Two birds, one stone.

Research. Read over any research notes you may have taken to put you back into that world and spark your imagination with possibilities for your characters. If you are writing anything besides contemporary fiction that is set in a city like your own, you need to put yourself back in the right place, the right time period, and the right clothes. You need to pick up those speech patterns you’ve given your characters. You need to reorient yourself to that world, reintroduce yourself to its problems.

Now stop fooling around on the internet and get back to work!