The End

About ten days ago, I found myself in the same predicament from last year. I hit the 50k for NaNoWriMo, but my novel was not yet finished, and I lacked what I needed to continue. I didn’t lack motivation, I lacked a proper end.

I had a very similar problem with my last novel, as well. I dance around the final confrontation. I flirt with it. I dangle it there, just to have my character shy away for one last bit of dialogue to fill in plot holes. Then I stop, frozen, not sure how to write the ending.

It took me a few days of writing silence to figure out why I couldn’t write an ending for my novel. Why would my MC charge off to kill someone he owed his life to for the sake of two people he just met? Why wouldn’t he just wave goodbye and be on his merry way?

I should have answered those questions in the middle, but I didn’t. I was missing numerous scenes from the middle that would show my MC’s conflict with himself. They would show him changing from wanting to run from everything, to wanting to save everything.

In other words: I built the tension, I increased the stakes, but I did not invest in emotion.

This isn’t a problem with my ending, but with my middle. I was so worried about making my characters sitting ducks, I had them jump into action. I spent no time developing relationships and explaining plot points via dialogue. I never built the reason why my MC needs to do what is right.

Because of what my middle lacked, my ending was flat, dull, boring, and I simply could not write it.

I don’t consider this a bad thing. I now have a greater understanding of the requirements of a middle and how those requirements apply to endings. My novel-writing arsenal has acquired a new weapon. For a first draft, I can’t hope for much more beyond having a novel to apply it to.

I’m still missing a fair number of scenes, but I know what I need to accomplish in them. Because of that, I managed to write a satisfactory ending. While my novel still needs a lot of work, I don’t think it’s anything I’m not capable of.

If you find yourself stuck in plot and uncertain of what your characters want and why, look for scenes you are missing. Find where your MC should develop her goals and embellish. Add conflict in the form of a subplot that shows exactly what your MC wants.

Don’t be afraid to grant yourself a couple days of writing silence. If you’re mid-project, try to limit your writing vacation to no more than a week, else you’ll have to re-introduce yourself to your characters. Take a few days off to let the plot simmer in your head, and you’ll return to your novel feeling refreshed.

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About Squishy

Writer, dancer, gamer, and admirer of all that is beautiful.

Posted on November 29, 2010, in Ishy Writes! and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I for one crashed and burned! Not too surprising, though. I made it to 16 000, a bit shy of my 20 000 from last year. A family issue disrupted my steady adherence to the 1667 a day, and I never got quite back on kilter. But I’ve learned from what I’ve written, and I think my next attempt will be even better. I haven’t gone over either closely, but I think this attempt was much better than last year’s, even in fewer words. If I try again next year, I should be able to at least hit a sum of 50 000!

    • As long as you enjoyed writing, you’ve won NaNoWriMo, even if you don’t get a badge that says so. If you have improved over last year, then that’s even better! Hope your family issue has settled down.

  2. Thank you for telling me to not stop at 42k like I planned to.
    I did it!
    Well, I wrote a little above 50k but the plot isn’t over. The ending isn’t just coming to me. What should have happened, now sounds too cliche to me. Oh well.
    And why WOULD your MC charge off to kill someone he owed his life to for the sake of two people he just met? Seriously, I am intrigued already.

    • Yay I’m so glad you made the rest of it! You were far too close to give up. In regards to your ending, it’s not surprising your original idea doesn’t quite fit anymore. Rereading and reassessing my characters’ motives helped me sort my ending out. I actually wrote three or four versions of it until I found one I liked. Hope your ending manages to sort itself out.

      As for my poor MC, he wonders the same thing.

  3. Sorry to hear things haven’t gone the smoothest. Endings are so hard to pull together. That’s where I fail more often than not (which is why I’m STILL working on a story fifteen years later…). Fortunately, first drafts are all about playing with the story to see where it will go, what is succeeding, and what needs more work. It sounds like in that regard, your first draft is a success.

    Is your MC still wondering why he should kill someone he owes his life to? You mentioned that killing this person is the right thing to do. Does he see it that way as well?

    • My MC starts off killing at the command of the man he later has to kill. He thinks he hates killing in general, but later realizes he hates killing innocents, and enjoys killing people who deserve it. The two people he meets are trying to save lives, which involves killing. My MC has to come to terms with the notion of killing to save lives. He does by the end, which is why he goes romping off to kill the man.

      Endings are what readers tend to remember most. The last lines have to echo long after the reader closes the cover after the last page. Endings are so thick with requirements, I’m not surprised it’s taken you 15+ years for one story. Actually, I’m impressed you’ve stuck with that plot for so long. I think I would have given up haha

      • Ah, okay. So it really is just a matter of adding the “missing” scenes so that his motivation takes root naturally. I’m glad to hear that’s all. Not that it’s a small task by any means, but at least it doesn’t require a complete reworking of the entire plot. Wish you the best of luck as you ponder what to add and how to add it. 🙂

        I’m glad the amount of time I’ve taken on one story doesn’t sound as ridiculous as it feels. Every year, I wonder how much longer I can work on it before I lose my mind. Fortunately, subsequent novels shouldn’t take as long since they won’t be based off of stories I started at nine.

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