Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Behind the Books: The Perfect Ending

Since next week is Christmas, this is my last Wednesday post of the year. So it seems like the perfect time to talk about endings.

Endings are hard for me.

When I was in journalism school, we were taught to frontload our articles because in the world of newspapers, it’s very common for editors to lob off the last few paragraphs of a story at the last minute. In other words, there was no reason to spend tons of time trying to tie everything up with a pretty little bow. Snip. Snip.

But books are an entirely different beast. Authors don’t have all the space in the world, but if length is an issue, cuts will probably happen in the middle of the piece, not at the end. Editors demand that we craft a satisfying, if not neat, ending.

So I’ve had to adapt.
 
Sometimes, I get lucky. I manage to get it right in the very first draft and it stays the same throughout the revision process, at least in spirit if not in actual word choice.  

But if that doesn’t happen, finding just the right ending usually turns into a long, tortuous process. I flounder around for weeks, months, occasionally even years. And more often than not it is the sage advice of my editor or someone in my critique group that sets me in the right direction.

Why are endings so hard? I have no idea, but I remain hopeful that one day something will suddenly click in my mind and I’ll have a moment of clarity in which I suddenly understand how to craft the perfect ending.
 
You never know. It happened with Sudoku.

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