Saturday, December 10, 2016

On Writing Endings

After one year and five months; 94,255 words; 368 pages; two protagonists, three sidekicks, and one villain; and endless weeks of blood, sweat, and tears (mostly from the characters), I finally finished. I typed the final five words of the first draft of my manuscript of 'Til the Last Star Dies. And it was SO SATISFYING.


Don't get me wrong, I loved writing it, but I also really, really enjoyed finishing it. I'M DONE. (Hahahahahahahahahaha, because not really. There are sooooo many edits to be done. But let me celebrate first. Hush now, inner editor, you'll get your turn.) Endings are some of the hardest things I've ever had to write, for several reasons. Especially since when I started the book, I had a clear ending in mind. For a good 70,000 words, every scene I wrote was propelling my characters toward a predetermined fate I'd picked out for them. There were a lot of explosions involved. And probably tears. From me and the characters. It was going to be awful, but I just thought in terms of "those poor characters" awful. Then my inner editor, Difficult Dan, woke up from his hibernation to slap me and say, "Bad, author. Don't you see how terrible this is?" and then I fixed it.

It's much, much better now. Thank you, Difficult Dan.

But still, it's not the ending I'd expected to write, which meant I only had two months of planning it rather than, say, a year and a half. Up until the last minute, I was second guessing myself. I had no clue what I was doing. I had a vague idea of something about shooting stars and a sunrise and maybe some sort of monologue from a character and there could still possibly be blood and destruction? It was a weird experience piecing together the last chapter at all. I didn't even know which character would be the one to tell it (although I am happy with my final choice).

So yeah, not at all what I expected. I usually like my bittersweet, ambiguous endings with a hopeful tone. It was a lot more sweet than it was bitter, but still ambiguous and hopeful, so I'm pretty okay with how it wrapped up.

UNTIL THE WARNING BELLS WENT OFF.


What if it was too sappy? Too cheesy? Too predictable? Is this really how I want to leave things? Does it leave the reader with a good taste in their mouths? What if I should've done something totally different? What if it dragged too much? What if it ended too quickly? ARE MY POOR CHARACTERS GOING TO BE OKAY? (Hint: Probably not, but they can dream, right?)

Then, in an extraordinarily rare moment of kindness, Difficult Dan pat me on the head and told me not to worry and it would all be okay. Then he revealed his gasoline and box of matches and said he had plans for most of my book anyway and it'd be so much better once he was through with it.

I hate agreeing with him on anything, but he's probably right there.

A lot of writers like to ask published authors when they know it's time for a book to end, and every answer I've heard has been "when you're sick of it" and then they laugh to make it sound like a joke. But if you look closely, you can see the memories of bags under their eyes and crumpled chocolate wrappers and bruises on their foreheads from the number of times they've done a face plant onto the keyboard in frustration.

This answer is surprisingly wise. You don't want to let the book continue forever, but if you think you might be getting close to the end and you're sad about missing your characters once you get to that last page, you're probably not done yet. I knew I was going to miss my characters no matter what I did, but there came a point when I knew the book just had to end. I wasn't clinging to the ankles of my characters, I was just kind of misting up a little as I waved goodbye. They'll live on in my mind, but it's time for them to tell their own story now. One where I can't terrorize them anymore.

Kidding, kidding. (Sort of.)

So this rambling post of me in a post-novel haze with my caffeinated beverage barely kicking in is to say that I FINALLY FINISHED MY FIRST DRAFT, YOU GUYS.


Revisions, here I come.

What are your thoughts on writing endings? Do you love them, hate them, or feel somewhere in between like I do? Leave a comment!

13 People Made Me Happy By Commenting! :D:

Jesse Porter said...

I agree, ending is such a sweet sorrow. My first book ended in frustration, but it was the first of a planned trilogy so I expected my characters to continue living. The second book was different; I couldn't wait for it to end. Now, I find myself reluctant to start the third. Is it because I wish it would never end or because I question whether it has already ended? To be or not to be? Sweet Will, please help!

Dr. Mark said...

Congratulations on making through the first draft! I know there is a lot left to do, but I also know how hard you've been working on this book. Bask in the glow of this first huge accomplishment! And this was a great post about the process.

Boquinha said...

YAY! I'm so happy for you!! I can tell you're so happy with this and it totally makes sense as to why! I love seeing how excited your friends are to read it, too. I like hearing about your process, so great post and great GIFs, too!

The Magic Violinist said...

@Jesse Porter

Series are a whole other issue! Definitely lots of complicated feelings there. I enjoyed the first series I wrote, because with each book I ended, I knew I'd be with the characters again. Though that didn't make the endings any easier to write!

@Dr. Mark

Thanks! It's been a roller coaster, for sure. I'm just glad I get to put it aside for a little while. ;)

@Boquinha

Thank you! Having other people waiting to read it made it easier to finish in some ways. If it were just for me, I would've procrastinated the hard parts a whole lot more.

Jimmy said...

Endings. Hmm. I like frustrating endings and I like for books to have an ending. You know that I've never read an entire series by any author? It just seems like a lot to get to an ending, so just tell me how it ends. I guess I'm lazy like that because I'm sure I'm one of the few people on the planet that was too lazy to read the Harry Potter series. And just to illustrate by way of a bad example, I lost the story line to the Star Wars series after The Empire Strikes Back. My mind just doesn't follow long story lines. I have really bad mid-term memory. And I enjoy short stories.

I don't know if this helps, but I loved your ending to your published short story! So I'm sure Difficult Dan got you where you needed to be with this one.

Cait @ Paper Fury said...

CONGRATS ON FINISHING!!🎉🎉 ALL THE CAKE AND CONFETTI FOR YOU!! I mean, well, I'll toss confetti at you and then eat the cake on your behalf because I'm super nice like that.
And omg endings are so hard to write?!? I have this problem where I like really OPEN endings. I like readers to be left with questions and I like to think of the story line "still going on" even though I've stopped writing it. hehe. But truly I just stop writing a story when I get sick of it too.😂 The writers life is super poetic like that sometimes. heeh.
But yayyyy for this draft and I hope the revisions treat you kindly!

Rain said...

*Applause*
CONGRATULATIONS ON FINISHING YOUR FIRST DRAFT!
*More applause*
Your first draft is really long, be proud of it. :)
Ivy says hi to Difficult Dan. ;)

Boquinha said...

Jimmy, I can relate to the series thing. (Except with Harry Potter.) :P I will say, definitely try the audio (Jim Dale). I've had 100% positive feedback from everyone I know who has heeded this advice, I promise. Listen in the car. You won't tire of it. It's lovely and holds your interest.

But yeah, the memory stuff and losing the thread . . . I get that. :/

The Magic Violinist said...

@Jimmy

Ha, I used to be great at finishing series, but lately I've stopped after the first or second book. Mostly because I forget! :P Or I get distracted and want to read something by a different author. It'd definitely be worth it to finish Harry Potter, though! Like Boquinha said, the audios are so good.

Thank you! I liked that ending, too. :)

@Cait

THANK YOU!!! I'll happily celebrate in the confetti and let you eat all the cake.

They arrrrre. I love open endings! Very few times have I read an open ending and didn't like it. Most of the time I'm totally fine with it. I loved your ending for Dead Boy! Plus, open endings leave room for sequels if you ever decide to go back to certain stories. ;)

@Rain

Thank you!!! :) I'm shocked at how long it is, actually. It was supposed to be like 60,000 words, maybe even less.

Hehe, maybe Ivy and Difficult Dan can keep each other company so we can get more writing done. ;)

Windsprite said...

I shouldn't read such stuff. I'm still struggling with first drafts of projects I never finished and staring and admiring what you have done is like looking up to mountaintops while you should watch your steps in front of you. But it definitely is spiriting to see, that it's possible :-)

Jimmy said...

Ok! I'm going to set a 2017 resolution to either read or listen to the entire Harry Potter series. It will be one small thing I can do to feel like I have finally done something to develop some literary taste!

Boquinha said...

YAY!! I'm so excited for you, Jimmy! I can't tell if your closing line is supposed to be sarcastic or not, but it made me laugh out loud. :P I definitely, definitely, definitely recommend getting the audio (from the library or whatever). I don't know how long your commute is or what your listening time is like, but the audio is simply phenomenal and captivating and I can't even overhype it. :) I think it will help you in your goal. :) In fact, I bet your girls would enjoy it right along with you. :)

The Magic Violinist said...

@Windsprite

Don't worry, you'll get there! I never used to finish anything unless I had a deadline. It just takes patience and practice (two things that are very hard, I know). :) Thank you!

@Jimmy

Yay! Can't wait to hear what you think!