In the very end

Do you ever struggle with endings? I do. Sometimes a story seems to magically complete itself, but more often I become uncertain as I reach the conclusion. I wonder What happens now?

So what are my tips when this uncertainty descends? Here are my top five:

  1. Look back at your story so far. Have you written past the ending? I did this in one of my stories, Tempest. I was rambling on about other things, completely ruining the piece. I eventually stopped, knowing the ending was bad, but unsure what to do. I read back over the last few paragraphs and got a chill when I realised. There! Right there! In a simple description, I’d already written the final two lines. I cut the rest, and the story was done.
  2. Brainstorm possible endings using pen and paper. (This is something I learnt to do in a writing workshop run by acclaimed Australian author Jaclyn Moriarty). Write your question in the centre of a piece of paper – in this case it might be something very simple like How does this end? (this technique is also great for untangling plot issues, testing alternate beginnings, etc). Draw arrows away from the central question and fill in answers. Write down literally anything that comes to mind, even if it strikes you as ridiculous. Keep going until you have ten or twelve conclusions to your story. Chances are, one of these ideas will jump out at you. Problem solved.
  3. Go back to the beginning of your story or novel. What was the very first scene? Is there an important object, unusual weather, something the protagonist was musing at the start to which you could return? It won’t work for all stories, especially ones where there is a radical shift in the main character’s life, but there is something really satisfying in a story that circles back.
  4. Read the whole piece through, thinking particularly of themes, images and recurring motifs. These are aspects of our work we don’t always notice until we reflect. The ending may lie in deftly using one of these.
  5. Sit with your characters, especially the main character, as you write towards the ending. Know them as well as your closest friend. Imagine what they’re feeling in a physical sense – how their skin feels, what their stomach is doing, how they’re moving their limbs. Think what they’re thinking. See what they’re seeing. Be with them as if you’re inside their mind and body, then write what happens next.

If you, too, find endings tricky, I hope these suggestions help. And if you have tips of your own, I’m keen to hear them!

14 Comments

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14 responses to “In the very end

  1. Great suggestions, Fiona. I have done most of these, though not number two, which I am now keen to try. I’ve heard some people write the ending first then go back and start the story. Never tried it myself but maybe it works for some people.

    • Oh wow, writing the ending first is a radical idea! I can’t imagine how I’d do that, since I never know the ending till I get there.
      For plotters this would be great. And maybe I could try it, see if it could work … almost like being a pantser in reverse?
      Thanks Karen x

      • Karen Hollands

        Yes, the very idea of it is shocking to me. Would be interesting to try out, though, purely as a writing exercise. Reverse pantser – I like that.

  2. They are tricky, aren’t they? I always love hearing process-wise what other people are up to. I’m a big one for circling back and seeing if I’ve delivered on the ‘promise of the premise’ but interested to try some of these as well.

    • Hi Nina, yeah endings are so important, and not always obvious, at least to me. I agree – I love reading what other writers do.
      The circling back is so appealing, isn’t it? I can’t always achieve it, but am thrilled whenever I can!
      Thanks for reading and commenting (and sharing on Twitter – much appreciated!) 🥰

  3. Great tips Fiona! Love the brainstorm 😃 xx

  4. Really good suggestions, Fiona. Thank you. I’m hoping I’m almost ready to write something (anything, really) soon. Endings are always difficult, but with these suggestions, they may just be manageable. x

  5. I find my writers’ group is great for pinpointing where a chapter should end, often a few paragraphs earlier than it actually does. Somehow they can see into it so much better than I can (and vice versa as well!)

  6. I hear ya’ on writing past the ending – I did the same with my first novel. I added about 35,000 words before realising they belonged in a different book. Love these tips – thank you!

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