word craft


The End?!

The EndA ques­tion I am often asked is, “Do you know the end­ings of your books when you begin?”

There is not a sim­ple answer to this ques­tion. Now and again I do know with some clar­i­ty what I expect the end­ing of a book will be. That, how­ev­er, is rare. More often than not, I have a gen­er­al sense as to where I am going. I has­ten to add that writ­ers dif­fer a great deal in this mat­ter. An edi­tor once told me of an impor­tant writer who did not set down a word until she was cer­tain of the book’s last line.

Anoth­er fine writer told me she did not begin writ­ing until she had thought out the whole book. Then again, I have lis­tened to writ­ers who say ”I just begin and see what happens.”

Hey, what­ev­er works …

As for me, I do not do out­lines when I start a book (I did in my ear­ly years) but often these days, when about two thirds of a way through a first draft I tell myself I MUST orga­nize my thoughts and do a rough sketch as to where I am going. I just did that for a cur­rent project.

But, let me empha­size, I would much rather dis­cov­er an end­ing, than plot one. Which is to say I want an end­ing to flow out of the plot as a whole, and noth­ing gives me more plea­sure than to be sur­prised. I think my best writ­ing occurs when the text tells me where to go—as opposed to my forc­ing the text into a box. It is that old John McDon­ald notion, “Bet­ter to be pulled by your text, than to push it.”

It is not usu­al for me to approach the ending—as if approach­ing the edge of a cliff—then back off, and take a run (from the begin­ning) to see what end­ing evolves. Leap of char­ac­ter log­ic, if you will.

That said, if I don’t feel emo­tion with my end­ing, I know I have not got it right.

Then there is my own doc­trine: I can’t write a good open­ing sen­tence until I write a good clos­ing sen­tence. All of which is to say a suc­cess­ful book is one that has uni­ty start to finish.

And that, dear friends, is always hard to do.

1 thought on “The End?!”

  1. It cer­tain­ly is hard to write a good end­ing — one that ties things up, brings you back to the begin­ning, reveals char­ac­ter growth, and evokes emo­tion. You do that so well.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Recent Posts