So I think I finally know something about writing endings.
One of the notes I tackled in my latest revision was to make the ending more satisfying. My first thought was to run away and hide (this is often my first thought) because I had no idea how to do that. But I also knew how I had it wasn’t really working. But I couldn’t work out why.
Writers have differing opinions when it comes to outlines, plot beats, formulas etc. When I wrote my first draft I had no idea about any of that, I just typed wildly into the wind and hoped for the best. Now, many drafts later, I know a bit more. And I think plot beats are great…but it helps if you understand them.
Here’s how I thought an ending went:
Black moment: bad stuff
Climax: more bad stuff
Resolution: get the hell out of there
And here is my breakthrough (that I’m sure many of you already get): the climax is a win. Yes the MC goes through more bad stuff to get there but they should come out on top.
Now of course you can have endings where the MC doesn’t win. All endings don’t have to be happy but (as the lovely Patrick Ness says) they should be truthful. But for me I needed a win.
So here is my new ending:
Black moment: the lowest point for MC
Rebuilding: MC slowly rebuilds from BM. This point was crucial for me. I was able to resolve most of the threads of conflict and build my MC up for the climax
Climax: MC faces and defeats main conflict
Resolution: Tie up remaining threads (you don’t have to resolve everything but there should be a feeling of momentum that the characters will be working stuff out off the page)
End: hopefully with a killer last line
Since I’m writing contemporary it helped me to sub antagonist or final battle for conflict. (Conflict can be anything – broken relationships, internal fears, different opinions etc.) Before I added in the section to ‘rebuild’ I’d just dumped heaps of bad stuff on my MC and left myself with barely any room for resolution. Now I’m left with only a couple of things to resolve.
And there you go. What do you think? I bet you already knew that, right?
Here’s some extra reading:
The End: Talking About Endings — And Not Just the Big One
The End is Near: What Makes a Good Ending?
No Joy: The Worst That Can Happen Isn’t Always Best for the Story
How to Plot With the Three-Act Structure
Yep, Janice Hardy is my yoda.
Here I am staring down the barrel of Act III and seemingly devoid of words.
There’s something about endings that I struggle with. All the space I seemed to have in my brain at the beginning of the manuscript has shrunk. Where I used to write in a mansion with many rooms now I’m confined to the bathroom, or the laundry. It feels like I need to just get it out and fast. Because who wants to hang out in a smelly loo longer than they need to?
I read somewhere that the end of the book can take on a different feel to the rest, a sense of winding up. I don’t know if this is good or bad. With all the battles, conquering and action endings certainly have a different speed to the rest of the story.
But all that speed seems to force me into this tiny writing space. And, you guys, I’m a bit claustrophobic. (Side note: so is my MC) So I’ve been trying to get some mental space. Slow myself down and approach this section with, hopefully, the wonder of the beginning.
Other contributing factors: please, book, just be done already, I need way more plot points and all the crazy life change that’s happened this month.
But today it’s raining. Pouring down. And I’m going to curl up on the couch with a hot cuppa and dream and write and try to relax my way back into my story.
I am currently sitting in my writing cafe, nursing a cup of chai tea and glowering at the person occupying my favourite comfy chair. So I thought I’d procrastinate from the WIP with a blog post. (Because I cannot write without my comfy chair…this is the person I’ve become.)
It’s now been a few months in the query trenches, the query-coster, the staring at my in-box refresh, refresh, refresh! And I thought I’d share some resources I’ve found helpful.
Query Tracker: This is the best way to keep track of all the agents you’ve queried, those you want to etc. You can read through comments from other queriers and if you become a premium member (highly recommend) you can soothe your brain with copious amounts of reports. There’s charts and graphs and stats, links from agent’s profile to google search, AgentQuery, Publisher’s Market Place and more.
Writer’s Digest Guide to Literary Agents: A great way to find new agents and what they’re looking for. New agents are looking to build their lists and often come with the support of a seasoned agency. Also agent interviews, query advice and lots of other things.
Literary Rambles Agent Spotlight: Just about the greatest series of blog posts ever. Comprehensive profiles on so many agents, what they’re looking for, interviews, quotes, clients, recent sales.
Mother. Write. (Repeat) Agent Interviews: Brilliant, in-depth interviews.
Michelle4Laughs Query Questions: I may have spent last night reading through all these posts. Interviews with agents about all our query fears, as well as what they’re looking for. Really, really good.
Stacey O’Neale Literary Agent Interviews: Another great source of interviews.
That is just a taste of my research. There’s so much stuff out there! If you’ve got some favourite query resources let me know in the comments :)
I’m going to continue to glower at the occupant of my chair now.
After feeling so incredibly inspired from Mindi Scott and all her thoughts I’m thinking about asking other authors to throw their thoughts into the mix. In short, how would everyone feel about some kind of series on writing contemporary (realistic) YA?
It would address things like: plot, pacing, conflict, character development, setting; all within a contemporary context. I’d love to know what questions you have and what you’re finding to be a particular struggle. Hit me up in the comments.
If you’re a contemporary author and would like to be involved feel free to shoot me an email or harass me on twitter. I’m not sure of the format of the posts yet but I’m thinking an interview type style.
I’m excited! *jumps around*
I recently listened to part one of a Clear Eyes Full Shelves podcast on Personal Agency. If you’re a writer of contemporary (and if you’re not) I can’t recommend this enough.
When I first delved into the writing world I inhaled all the advice I could find on craft and structure etc but I felt a disconnect between what I wanted to write and the examples workshopped in so many posts and books. Everything seemed very action focused: good guy vs bad guy etc and I struggled to find anything that would break open a contemporary novel and study all its parts.
In this podcast, Sarah and Laura talk to author Mindi Scott about her novels within the context of personal agency. About characters becoming aware of their place in the world and how they choose to act. The subtleties in story and character development that Mindi unpacked were amazing. My favourite thing she said was how she thinks about her characters in terms of what they can’t do and by the end of the novel can they do that thing now. (Wow, I butchered that quote…and sentence)
Creating a page turning, satisfying story in a slice-of-life contemporary novel can seem so much more complicated than having your characters face down actual bad guys. So often the characters are warring with themselves and the ‘death’ that’s hanging over them is emotional and can seem dismissible. Mindi talks about latching onto that thing they want, that they can’t do or have and bringing them through to the other side.
Bonus Side Note:
Here are some of my favourite books on writing:
Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott
Elements of Fiction Writing – Conflict and Suspense by James Scott Bell
On Writing by Stephen King
What are yours?
Why hello there, weekend! You certainly snuck up on me.
This week has been nothing short of brilliant. I had the privilege of being part of Pitch Madness which led to some amazing requests and new writer friends. If you’re up to querying I strongly recommend entering the next Pitch Madness (whenever that may be). It was such a positive experience. Normally I find writing competitions or critique opportunities make me feel a bit ill. Having your work just sitting out there for anybody to read and have thoughts about is pretty nerve wracking. And sometimes those critiques, wow, they can smart.
Not so with Pitch Madness. Everybody was so encouraging and supportive and I just felt so encouraged and supported! I existed on very little sleep, from checking the results on twitter to late night revisions to my two-year-old deciding to wake up at 2am, and in this constant surreal state of mind. It was a definite high.
It could just be me coming down from this high now and feeling all weepy but man I love the writing community! Never underestimate the power of encouragement. I really value all the kind words I’ve received from my peers. Seriously. I owe the hugest of thanks to Brenda Drake for putting in all the hard work into this competition and a very special thank you to my team leader Shelly Watters. Thank you! And I wish so much luck to all my fellow Pitch Madders (and Pit Madders!) I can’t wait to read all of your books!
*takes a really long nap*
I just read this brilliant post from Nova Ren Suma about her process of outlining. And it has stirred some thoughts.
Writers seem to be divided into two categories when it comes to process: Plotting and Pantsing. While I think that the lines are a bit greyer than that (you might be a loose plotting pantser perhaps) to keep it simple I’ll just refer to those two categories.
When I first delved into the writing world my impression of the two categories was this: Pantsers = rock stars and Plotters = nerds. Naturally, I wanted to sit at the cool table. Pantsers throw everything to the wind and write with abandon. They give the rules the forks and do what they want. While plotters outline meticulously and know everything before they set pen to paper or finger to keyboard.
So, I donned my flower crown, swirled my pretty dress (hmm maybe pantsers are hippies?) and skimmed my copy of No Plot? No Problem! And what can I say after two years and one painful manuscript later? *whispers* am I aloud to give back my pants?
I think I might give plotting a go.
Here’s why I truly think I pantsed my first manuscript: fear. Fear that I didn’t have a story, an ending, a climax, fear that everything would fall down, fear that I had so many holes my MS resembled a poorly crocheted sock. Fear. Fear. Fear. Somehow discovering that in an outline felt worse than discovering it on the page. But I’m sure it would’ve saved me some thorough rewriters…or maybe not.
So, was I wrong to pants? No. Like I said I was scared. And that fear of writing will, well, stop you writing. Yes my MS was a huge mess at the end but I still pulled out 55,000 words of something.
The danger of identifying yourself with a category is if something in you changes your chosen identifier can feel like a box you can’t get out of. The writing process is so personal and you need to sometimes try different things to find out what works and what doesn’t work for you.
Also, plotters aren’t nerds. Seriously, is this high school? Gee whizz. We’re all out there trying to tame this giant beast of story and to (loosely) quote Patrick Ness, “If you get to the end of your manuscript, you’ve done it right.”
Now, excuse me while I go outline. *puts on nerd glasses*
Originally posted May 27 2013
Pieces of Sky
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