Hello Everyone! Thanks for letting me play in the sandbox with you. Sorry about the mess . . .
This is my first regular blog here and I’m really excited. I’ve been thinking a lot about my first post. I was thinking that a person’s debut blog should be spectacularly interesting, erudite, funny, wise, sensational . . . Sorry about that too.
Right now, I’m a little insane. Those of you who know me are rolling your eyes and saying, yeah, right, like she isn’t insane most of the time. (They’re actually saying all the time, but I’m trying to put a positive spin on it. Sue me.) Anyhow, I just wrapped up the draft of Crimson Wind, which is my ninth book and sequel to Bitter Night. I’m also digging through the page proofs of my eighth book, The Hollow Crown, which will be ou in June. The deadline merge of two books at once has sort of pushed me over the edge.
So that brings without any sort of transition or segue whatsoever to my topic, which is: The end of the end.
Every part of a book is hard to write, especially while you’re trying to write it. I have a particularly thorny time with beginnings and the ends of chapters. The ends of chapters are hard (and this really is a transition) because they need to have some scene resolution, they need to make you want to turn the page, and they need to have some punch. For me, punch is a kind of a narrative exclamation point that gives the scene a little extra umph! They are particularly hard for me to write because I am never all that sure what that is going to be until I write it. It might be a slight cliffhanger moment. It might be a snarky comment. It might be a hint of foreshadowing. But it has to fit the moment and it has to make the reader eager to read on.
The end of the book is harder, and the end of the end is worst of all. The end of the book has to resolve character conflicts and plot conflicts. It has to make readers feel like their investment of time and money was worth it. It has to be exciting and dramatic, and cap off what has hopefully been a rollercoaster ride. At least that’s what I’m going for in my books. But the end of the end . . . that’s the part that can really drive a person nuts.
The end of the end is the last few hundred words of a book. Maybe less. It’s the last word, the last resounding note. It has to be powerful. It has to make your reader want to go back and reread. It has to be the cherry on the top of the cake—in itself, it won’t necessarily resolve any conflict, but it will add a certain something that will make the book memorable. It’s that lasting note that makes the reader think of your book again and again. It’s hard to describe what I mean. More along the lines of you know it when you see it.
What it is, is the last moment of closure. It’s frequently makes you feel like you’ll know what happens next in the lives of your characters—that when you close the book, their lives will go on. It makes you feel satisfied, like there was a final last word that made you go—yes! Exactly!
Writing the end of the end is one of the most difficult things for me to do. That’s because I do it by feel. It’s a sense of something finished, a sense of the door shutting firmly and everything fitting exactly so. It’s the sort of thing that makes you clap at your keyboard and say yes! Oh yes! You want to dance a little bit because you know you’ve hit the note—the perfect end of the end.
I know, it all sounds a little touchy-feely and there’s no good hard and fast way to judge whether you’ve hit the note right. It’s a gut feeling for me, and sometimes I spend a lot of time staring at the words on the last page, rearranging and adding and subtracting until it makes just the right shape.
Am I insane? Maybe. But the fact is that while I’m terribly uncertain about how well I accomplished some things in the book I just finished, I can say that the end is perfect. It hit exactly the note I wanted and it may make my readers hate me with a passion. I can live with that.
Even as I try to end this blog, I realize that this too requires an end to the end. That I need something pithy or something clever to end on, something that makes you want to come back and read again. Or I could finish out with something so pathetic that you have to come back and read in the same way you have to watch a disaster play out live on the TV. I’m hoping I do better than that.
So here’s my end to the end. There’s a lot of parts of a book. Each one needs to fit together just right to make the book good. But I think that it’s always worthwhile to take a good hard extra look at your first line and your end of the end. Make them both rivetting and compelling, if for no other reason than this: A reader is in the bookstore. He picks your book up off the shelf and reads the first line or the first paragraph. He’s delighted. But he’s got an odd (or not so odd) fetish. He needs to read the last page to make sure it’s going to end okay and he won’t be disappointed. So he does. And he discovers that end of the end is as compelling as the opening. So he takes it up to the counter and buys it.
We’re writers. We love our jobs, but in the end, keeping our jobs depends on readers buying books. Is it mercenary to think of how you can best make that happen? Maybe. But maybe it’s also survival. And it’s also good writing. Entertaining our readers, making them want our books, well, that’s our job. So write a good beginning and a good end, and then write a damned good book in between. And do try not to go insane while you’re at it.