WFMAD Day 12 – Start at the End or End With the Beginning?

 

 

Question: "I'm terrible at writing endings, how do you move past that?"

 

I have an advanced degree in Struggling To Figure Out How To End My Book. I am both an expert at this question and I dread it.

 

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But I'll give it my best shot.

The endings to my historical fiction novels are somewhat easier than my YA books. FEVER 1793, CHAINS, and FORGE are all grounded in historical fact and populated with fictional characters. The historical events that I use as the scaffolding for the book give me at least part of the conclusion of the external plot line. I outline my historical novels fairly heavily to ensure the right balance between the fiction and the historical facts, so it's easier to figure out where I want the book to end and how the characters will get there. 

My YA novels are much more fluid. I start with a character whom I care about and a situation which makes that character's life difficult. I do not outline at all; I explore the story as the first draft unfolds in my head and on the page. While this probably makes extra revision work for me, I have no interest in outlining my YAs. I love the magic of watching the character grow, without knowing how the story ends. 

 

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Goosebumps author R. L. Stine starts with the titles of his books and outlines heavily, so he always knows where his story is headed. It certainly works for him.

If you are stuck, rudderless, in your story, try this. Write a synopsis. Can't do that yet? Then use editor Cheryl Klein's handy-dandy Plot Checklist. Fill out what you can and you'll quickly see where and why your story doesn't have a clear resolution yet. 

 

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Please don't beat yourself up if the plot of your story doesn't leap from your head onto the page all neat and tidy. Sometimes it takes a lot of exploring and digging and pondering before your character is ready to fully share who she is and what's bugging her. In every book I write, I generally throw out 200-300 pages of scenes and chapters that don't work. Was that wasted effort? Of course not! It's all part of the adventure.

 

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Non-fiction prompt – Freewrite about a book you've read or a movie you watched that had a rotten ending. How would you have changed it? Did the author or screenplay writer screw up a plot choice or a character choice?

Fiction prompt – Using R. L. Stine's technique, write a title and a one sentance description of how a story ends, then outline it backwards to the beginning.

 

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Fifteen minutes spent writing today could change your life.

scribble… scribble… scribble…

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