Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Endings.

First, huge congratulations go out to Bernita Harris! The Weirdly anthology that stars her story, Stone Child, is available in print via Amazon here. (And here’s my review, if you want to remember what it’s about.) I’ve had the chance to read a few more of the stories and it’s a good collection, different in a refreshing way.

I’ve been struggling with endings, lately. In fact, I’m so intent on improving my endings that I want to write a ton of them.

While writing beginnings can improve your beginnings, I’m not convinced anything but writing a whole story can improve your endings. But maybe I could imagine beginnings and middles, and just write a few endings for practice?

That would be weird, but I’m into practicing in weird ways. Maybe because in piano, if you practice something in a harder way or force yourself to practice it in a different way, you not only improve what you’re working on but you make it feel easier. You make it something you can wield with more artistic control.

But writing is like a solitary performance, a mixture of practicing and performing where the lines are blurred, you know? I have to call on the mental game of practicing as much as I call upon the mental game of performing, and they’re two different things.

If something is hard for me, I force myself to do it a bunch. If I think I can’t work a certain way, I make myself work that way. If I resist trying something or hear myself say "I don’t/can’t do that," or "That doesn’t work for me," then I force myself to do it.

For some odd reason, I always resist whatever would be best for me. The more it would be good for me, the stronger I resist.

I’ve always thought that you can find your ending in the beginning, but John Irving says the exact opposite. He says he writes his ending first, writes his book backwards. That’s interesting. (If I understand correctly, he sits and imagines the whole story before he writes that ending, though.)

I should probably try writing my ending first sometime, since I believe I can’t, LOL. Neil Gaiman writes brilliant beginnings and endings, but the middle is "just" great with flashes of brilliance.

But it’s easy to see why that happens. There’s something very similar about the beginning and the end. They’re like the same two beasts, except the ending goes backwards. The beginning hooks into the middle and the end hooks into the middle. And the beginning and the end are like twin sisters on opposite sides. Sort of. I don’t know, I’m just rambling my thoughts.

Jenny Crusie writes the most satisfying endings I’ve ever read. I can’t quite put my finger on why.

Writing how-to books are pretty quiet about endings. Many of them will ruthlessly talk about the beginning and may even address the middle, but I can’t remember a real focused study on endings.

I guess I have no conclusion today. Any thoughts? On endings or practicing or the mental game of writing?

9 bonus scribbles:

Ello 11/21/2007 02:10:00 AM  

WEll I only have one completed book and one semi completed book under my belt, but I can tell you that I wrote up the ending for both of them way before I wrote the beginning. For me I knew what my story would end up at first before I knew how I would get there. Is that weird?

Bernita 11/21/2007 08:01:00 AM  

Thank you, Natasha!
Exhuberant reviews like yours helped make it happen, and I am kiss-your-feet grateful!
I think your musical analogy holds a clue to a satisfying ending.

Edie 11/21/2007 08:47:00 AM  

I know the direction of my ending - a general idea of what will happen - but there's no way I could write it first. As I write the book, magic happens. I get insights about the characters I didn't know in the beginning. This will change the ending in little ways and make it perfect for the story and the characters. I hope. lol

Erica Orloff 11/21/2007 10:02:00 AM  

Hi Spy . . .

Well . . . I don't know if this helps, but . . .

I tend to be a visual writer. I see my books as movies and then figure out how to tell the story. I always plan a happy ending or some sort of conclusion as an EMOTION. What I want to walk away from my book feeling, what I want my readers to. So for THE ROOFER, which I know you read, I wanted the reader to walk away with Ava having a chance, with her feeling a burst of courage, with her resolving with her father--though he was dead--all she had experienced, with her confessing to him (in the funeral parlor) but with a sense of heaviness as well because of Tom. I wanted people to feel happy but also, maybe, cry. And if it was a movie and the house lights went up, I wanted a "wow" element--vs. a straight "happy ending" moment. Once I knew what emotions I wanted, then resolving all the various subplots and pulling it together felt easier somehow. It was more "how do I get there from here"?

Looking at Diary of a Blues Goddess, I knew I wanted Georgia and Tony to get together and so on . . . I wanted more of an "Awww . . . . it worked out for everyone" feeling. And then it was getting there.

So that's how I do it.

E

Michele 11/21/2007 10:48:00 AM  

Oooh. I love the way Erica describes how she visualizes the ending with emotion.

It'll happen for you, Spy. As badly as you want this, I have a feeling you're not going to give up until it's right--just like playing the piano, as you mentioned.

Good luck!

spyscribbler 11/21/2007 11:09:00 AM  

Really, Ello? Wow. No, I don't think that's weird. I think I'm learning that I'm weird. :-)

Of course, Bernita! It's a great story!

Edie, I'm like you, I know the direction. But the last two I've written a little differently. It's been a little strange. But I like that magic! Heck, I rely on that magic!

Thanks, Michele! I'm almost there, which is probably why I can talk about endings with some semblance of reason instead of panic, LOL!

spyscribbler 11/21/2007 11:12:00 AM  

Thank you SO much, Erica! I have to chew on that for awhile. I'm not sure I know where I'm headed until halfway through. Mostly I just know what emotional journey the character is taking, but I really should think about how I want the reader to feel at the ending.

Reminded me, I loved the ending to High Heels. I had a cry, the kind that feels good and happy and everything. :-)

Aimless Writer 11/21/2007 11:07:00 PM  

In my present wip I wrote the ending first. Then the beginning and now I'm working on making them meet in the middle. Whew! How exhausting. Good thing we have tomorrow off.
:)
Or do we?

spyscribbler 11/22/2007 12:16:00 AM  

Aimless, that's cool. That's very cool. The only scene I have right now (for the new one) is the moment before the "final battle."

And, thanks to Erica, the emotion I want the reader to feel at the end.

This is going to be a hard one to write.