The Creeping Ending

Diana Pharaoh FrancisDiana Pharaoh Francis
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I want to talk about endings. I just wrote a book. Most of it I wrote in six weeks. Then it took me just about a month to write the ending. Now I’ll admit, I had no idea what the ending was, and that time coincided with some time off I intended to take, and a family emergency I did not plan on. I finished the book two days ago. I was in the very last chapter and I finished that chapter, and then started the next very last chapter, and then I was within a paragraph or two of finished, then several pages later I was within a paragraph or two of finishing, and then a few pages later I was within a sentence or two of finishing, and then pages later . . . .

Well, you get the idea. I call this ending creep. It happens every single time I write a book. Stories, too. It drives me nuts. 

So why do the ends of the stories become creepy? The main reason for me is that I’m looking to make sure that I’m hitting all the notes to make the ending satisfying. That means conflict and plot resolution, emotional climax, and a pithy closing. The worst part is that I’m working off a feeling–of whether I feel that it’s all there or not. 

Okay, so here I am working on the end of this book. I’ve wrapped up the major action. I’ve not yet pointed to what’s happening next, but that’s coming. Well, I hope it is, but I haven’t quite figured out what will be happening next. I’ve gathered my major characters together for the aftermath. This is where the emotional stuff boils over and has to be dealt with, while at the same time, there has to be a resolution that points forward into the future (next book). So this story has to be resolved, and yet there are loose ends that have to make a reader want to read on to the next book. (This will be a duology). I know, at this point, that even though this is romantic, it’s not all going to be sunshine and roses. At the same time, I don’t want the two romantic leads to be stereotypically angry at each other. I want the troubles that interferes with the romance to be organic and not feel like it’s just something to break them apart. The truth is, up until this point I didn’t know if they would be apart or not. I had this image that said not, but frankly that never turned up in the book. So I was free to keep them together. But it was too easy. Too pat. I didn’t believe that they wouldn’t have to struggle more. So struggle they will.  I think that the situation that pulls them apart and puts them  on opposing sides is organic to the story and makes sense. So in the same moment there’s both a declaration of love and a separation.

So  I’m writing the scene and I hammer out several important threads–the lovers and also how to handle some of the war stuff as I go forward. Since the two are deeply intertwined, that resolution felt a lot like the end of the book. Mostly. But it wasn’t. I didn’t have the emotional resolution that I wanted. Specifically, beyond the romance, I knew that I needed my heroine to make some active choices. She’s been growing into those choices throughout the book, but I needed her to make some decisions that were less reactive and more proactive. She needed to take a good hard look at what she wanted and decide to walk into the fire, fully aware.

I needed that ending because for me, while the romantic part was critical and while the action had a dramatic conclusion, the story is at its heart about this woman who has to confront herself and her past and her present and what she wants out her life. In the end, she comes to a choice of paths and and that choice is an interior conflict that’s been building the entire book. This is the central conflict of the book. So all the exterior stuff has largely resolved or pointed forward, but now this primary driving conflict needs its resolution.

It wasn’t enough to have her just make a decision and go from there. I also needed some panache. Something snarky/pithy that could leave the book on a powerful note. It’s like having the last word in an argument.

The end creeping, the time spent on that last chapter, both were a function of hitting all the right notes and of making all of those various endings strike together into a crescendo. I’m honestly pretty happy with it. There’s a lot of work going on and I’m hoping that it’s as satisfying to the reader as it is for me.

And now, to go clean it up and send it out.

 

 

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10 comments to The Creeping Ending

  • sagablessed

    Congrats!!
    The thrill of those final words….I hope you are as proud of you as we are.
    Because you should be. Many talk about writing a novel. Few finish one.

  • Ken

    Congrats, Diana!!!

    I’ve run into that in some of my short stories. I think “Yah, this is the ending…oh, wait, the ending is here…or here…” I swear it felt like I was trying to chase down a piece of paper in a wind storm.

  • Congratulations on finding your ending! I have a feeling I’m going to encounter this with the WIP. The ending scene was actually one of the first scenes I “saw” when I started. It was complete and satisfying. Now so much has changed earlier in the book that I’m not sure what will happen when I get to the end.

  • Congratulations! I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year for the first time, and actually found my very first ending quite by accident. It was a conversation during some downtime, and after it happened it just hit me that, omg, this is the ending! It was kind of exciting, and I’m sure that’s how you felt when arriving at yours – even though you put much more thought into it than I did :D.

  • sagablessed: I’m proud, but a little terrified of going back and reading and finding out it’s dreck. Sigh. Paranoid writer is paranoid.

    Ken: That’s exactly it. A hurricane.

    Sisi: Thanks! yes! Every little vivid scene I thought was going to be in the book isn’t. On the other hand, they inspired the story that is, so I supposed I can’t complain. But wait! Yes I can!!!! :D

    Dave: You are so lucky. I have envy. Yeah, there’s a whole cascade of Eureka! moments as I strike each ending note so that I get the overall crescendo effect. Since I’m doing it all in a black cave, it’s really exciting to find them.

  • sagablessed

    *snort* You could never write dreck.In the words of Mammy Abner: I haz SPOKUN!

  • Razziecat

    Diana, cool post. I learned something new this month during NaNo: I need to have that vision of the ending to work toward. Like, REALLY NEED IT. I hit my 50K on Monday, but I’m not stopping, because I really, really want to see the ending of the story. I’m not exactly sure how it’s going to go down, although I have some ideas, but to me, the best part of writing is knowing that my characters are going to surprise me. Another point you made, about the characters growing toward a big decision, is also relevant to me. I keep seeing places where I’m going to have to go back and expand on that theme, but for now it’s full speed ahead. The ending-to-be is what’s pulling me forward.

  • [...] to mention that I finished Trace of Magic a couple days ago. Go me! I talk about ending it over at Magical Words today. Specifically about ending creep. I’m pretty happy with the book so far, but only because [...]

  • sagablessed: You are so awesome

    Razziecat: I would have loved a vision for the book. Sadly, my brain stalled on it. I did have a bunch of giggles and chortles as I was writing. Maybe a few evil laughs too. Don’t stop and go go go! May you get to the ending sooner rather than later.

  • I am about 90K words into the fourth Thieftaker, which might well be the last Thieftaker. And I just KNOW that I will have ending creep. There is so much to tie up, so many threads to deal with, so many notes I want to hit. And, because I still hope to write more in the series, I need to nod toward a possible continuation of the series without promising it. I still don’t know how I’m going to thread that needle. But yeah, all this seems very, very familiar to me.