I have loved Kate I. Foley’s blog, The Magic Violinist, for years. She’s an impressive writer, and she’s only seventeen years old. Thank you, Kate, for this article.
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!