Monday, July 11, 2011

Saggy Back Ends

Hello.  My name is Katie and I write saggy back ends.  

Usually an idea will come to me almost fully formed- with the main conflict in sight, characters, and a couple scenes ready.  It takes awhile to add onto that and build up until I have myself a reasonable outline.  And then I start writing.  But of course, somewhere between the first chapter and the middle, things change- scenes get added, cut, or moved around as my imagination dives into the story head first.  I make the same changes on my outline- looking ahead and making sure everything adds up.  The climax comes and goes, I’m almost done!!!!

But then comes the ending.

I freeze.

I almost never like my original endings.  And I have to ask myself 'how the hell do I want to end this?'  I mean, it’s done.  The conflicts have all been resolved.  Resolution achieved.  But there’s that final scene that’s supposed to...I don’t know.  Uplift us?  Like a happy ending?
Give us an idea of how the characters will go on living their lives? Like in JK Rowling’s epilogue?
Surprise us?
Or what about those cliff hangers in sequel-coming novels that have us biting our nails and wondering how the characters will deal with the brandy-new conflict they present right at the closing?

I’ll be honest here and tell you I have no frickin’ clue how to naturally end a novel.  I don’t like endings one little bit and I’m constantly second-guessing myself.  My back ends are saggy.  They lack toning and firmness.  I want my endings to feel like the natural close of the story- everything’s been worked out and all is as it should be.  You should be able to bounce a nickel off my back end, dammit!

But choosing the right scene, the right closing line...it’s like a puzzle I never feel is completed.  Or it’s missing a piece.....Or there’s one piece left and you’re left sitting there, staring at the extra piece wondering what the hell other puzzle it came from... 

What do you do about endings?  What are some of your favorites?

27 comments:

Miranda Hardy said...

I like to leave my books with a cliff hanger. I can't help it. Of course, endings are so important. It's the last impression you leave with the reader.

Jessica Bell said...

Oh my gosh I love writing my endings! Hmm, sorry, I haven't got any advice for this as I've never struggled with it. I struggle with the climaxes!

Laura Pauling said...

Well, any part of it is hard. And I consider the climax as part of the ending, personally. I love endings that surprise me and reveal something I didn't expect. (Of course, in a way I like) :)

Sarah said...

It's funny; sometimes I imagine writing my endings is like trying to stop a speeding freight train without having it jump the rails. Endings have to give you a hint of future, but not too much (I loved the Harry Potter series but disliked the epilogue--it was too much). I agree with you that it's a challenging job, and that less is probably more. A scene that shows (rather than tells) the growth of the characters--especially with reference to some thread that ran through the story--reveals their new situation, and gives a tiny taste of what's to come is my goal (and yes, sometimes it takes a couple rewrites).

Shain Brown said...

I hate writing endings. I think it has to do with my separation anxiety and the fear of leaving my characters, but I am getting better.

Cynthia Lee said...

I had trouble with an ending once and I brooded over it for a while, waiting for the ending to pop into my head out of nowhere. That didn't work.

So one day I sat down and just started writing something, anything, even if I knew it was craptastic - and eventually I worked out the ending. I don't know why it works like that for me but it does.

Gina said...

I'm more of a saggy middle person myself. I usually know exactly how I want the story to begin and end, and then everything else in between is the hard part.

I thought Catching Fire had a great ending, and so did Shiver. If I'm crying or laughing or sighing contentedly, the author has done something right.

E. Arroyo said...

I hate writing my ending. It takes me forever to figure it out. Great post

Old Kitty said...

I think with my endings - I never know when to stop! LOL!! I'm like, stop writing, woman, it's over!!!

I wish I could have pert and perky ends too! LOL! take care
x

Kimberly said...

I follow an outline, too. I separated my novel into three parts. I approached it as I would a concluding paragraph in a typical essay. Of course, it is more in-depth. My ending was already written before I completed my book, but I had to change it at the last hour.

Thank you for this post.

April said...

Endings are my nemesis (spelling?). Seriously. I hate endings. I know how I want the story to end, but wrapping it up nicely is the hard part. So, I have no advice!!! LOL. I just count on a lot of rewrites!

Hart Johnson said...

I am so completely opposite. I always have these carefully woven wind-up plans and then suddenly the exact ending sentence sneaks up on me and it's done. Catches me off guard almost every time. I usually have to go into the rewrite figuring out ways to get in some of those details BEFORE that sentence I'm in love with.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Bounce a nickel off your back end -- snort, snort, giggle! What a great image!

I generally have the ending scene in mind when I start the book. But getting the last line right ... that takes multiple revisions.

Mac said...

I concur with Dianne...great picture. Got me to read your blog.

My wife hates my endings. Believe they are too abrupt.

I say, once the climax is resolved, you tie up the loose ends, there is nothing more to say.

I hate long-winded conclusions. I like to leave a Huh? to encourage 'em to read the sequel. And I always have a sequel.

;O)

Matthew MacNish said...

I would like to think I'm good with endings, but have sagging middles (I'm not sure what the metaphor would there, probably my beer muscle). One of the best endings I've ever read was for the third Bartimaeus book.

Colene Murphy said...

Endings ARE tricky, dude! That's the joy of readers. They can tell you if they weren't satisfied or whatever, ya know? Besides, if you can write a whole novel amazingly like I'm sure you do, you can do the ending! Just gotta get out of your own head and write what comes naturally!

Sarah Pearson said...

I'm trying to remember that killing everyone off is not always a good ending :)

Johanna Garth said...

I think a lot of people have a hard time with endings, John Grisham comes immediately to mind. I usually write the ending and hate it so I leave it to marinate and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite until, at the very least, it satisfies me.

Nicole Zoltack said...

Oh really? Please don't hate me but I find endings easy to write. In fact, I hardly have to edit them.

Beginnings on the other hand.... those give me nightmares! Sometimes I have to rewrite and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite and rework it and it's still not perfect.

Caledonia Lass said...

Well, hon, not to brag but I am damn good with a cliff-hanger ending. I can whip those puppies out so fast they don't get a chance to miss their mama.
But when it comes to ending a story... the finality of it all...
I hope someday to be able to achieve an actual ending. I've got all sorts of awesome stories floating around in my head and can't figure out the ending. So I feel your pain, sister. :(

Jen Daiker said...

It depends on my mood to the ending of choice.

I however don't have an ending problem. It's tying the loose ends together that throws me for a loop! There's that point in the story where you have a stupid climax (you know... the plot junk you must have to call it a book). Yeah, I have to enlist my husband to help me tie it all together.

He see's things clearly where as I've been drowning myself in printing paper coming up with the answer.

Royce A Ratterman said...

In one of the two crime novels I still need to edit/rewrite and all, I end it with what 'could be' another beginning, or even a spin-off.
I have seen films where they have made the end of a famous author's novel look silly. I am thinking now of "It" and the huge spider-thing ending the film. Very funky to me. I would have preferred to see some sort of sordid clown-realm and be left wondering if "It" was really gone for good.
Take your time and keep us posted if you have insights & tips!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I struggle with endings, too. They are so dang hard! :-)

A.G. Wright said...

You're not alone! I NEVER know the ending to my novels until I - myself get to the end. It makes my CP crazy! And actually this morning -I talked to her and brainstormed a couple ideas for my WIP and actually came up with an ending! I think I OMG'd her! Anyway - endings are hard, but you'll find the perfect one! Good luck! Great post!

Maria said...

Endings are the reason I have a stash of unfinished works! Then, I finally wrote something where I had the ending firmly in mind, and it was bliss. Such bliss, that I will never again write if I don't have an ending. In fact for my current WIP, I have at least 2 solid endings and a hint of a 3rd. Just in case my test readers rebel at my preferred ending!

Jessie Humphries said...

Ughh...this is a good question. Endings are tough. Are you setting up for book 2? Doing a Inception-who knows ending? Happily ever after? I am in the same exact boat. Who has a paddle?

Angela Scott said...

Holy Crap! I write saggy endings too! Uggg...endings are SO hard for me to write.

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