Tuesday, 12 November 2013

What to do when there isn't an ending...

Here's a brief summary:
  • I wrote a depressing novel
  • Everyone thought it was depressing
  • I decided to rewrite it a couple of months ago
  • It's still depressing, but in a totally different way
  • It doesn't have an ending because I completely ripped up at least half of the original book.
Got it? Good. Advice?

Haha... I wouldn't do that to you. But I think I might have written the first endless book.

I'm just a little bit lost at the moment because I usually know the ending before I start writing, even if (as with a couple of stories that will be out soon) I try my hardest to avoid that ending to make a new one. Most of my endings are pretty depressing in their own right, but at least the characters have followed a logical path - and, to be honest, in most cases they are not as depressing as they could have been!

This current story doesn't seem to have a path that won't come across as contrived, pathetic and far too soft. The problem is that without a satisfying ending there's absolutely no point to the story at all - I'll have put my MC through hell for no reason. With the wrong ending, people will never trust another thing I write (a possible exaggeration, but not much) - or it will read like the ending from a different novel has been dumped onto this one.

Tell me about your endings.
Do you always know where you're going?
Have you ever written yourself into no-man's land?




54 comments:

  1. Hey Annalisa,

    I feel your pain. My suggestion (because I sorta had to do this, which is why my book still sits in revision) is to write as logically an ending as possible. Take it to the bones. "A" + "B" + "C" caused "D," with "D" being the ending. Then just end it and let it breathe for a sec. It's hard to suggest any plausible ending w/o knowing the story; reading the work.

    I'm sure you'll do just fine.

    M.L. Swift, Writer

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    1. Thanks M.L, I've just started the final part - well, opened a new doc, which is the same thing right? And actually, as I started typing this comment, I may have just come up with some kind of solution. You're now officially my magical muse, thank you!!

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  2. Did people think your ending was depressing because it was sad and they preferred happy endings? Or because it made the character's experience unrelatable and pointless?

    Sad endings have their place. I don't like them, but I did write a book with a sad ending because I was basing it on real life events. I did try to bring the character back to some resolution with family members she had parted from, even if her love life had come to a tragic conclusion. (And this really happened, so it was okay.)

    If the ending makes the story seem pointless ... hmm, doesn't that make it "a literary novel?" Just kidding. Sort of.

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    1. Lol... I'll keep it pointless then :-)

      It wasn't the ending that was depressing in the original story - it was the whole thing... sad, gets sadder, gets violent, get abusive, gets worse, murder, gets worse than that etc.

      I've taken out the murder, so it's ten times less depressing. At this point I need the ending to make sense, but I may have had a breakthrough. Isn't it great when you blog and the sheer act of doing so helps?

      Thanks for your input :-)

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  3. I have nothing helpful to add, but it sounds like you may not need it anyway! I'm glad you've had a break through! Good luck!

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    1. Fingers crossed I have... Until tomorrow when I read it through :-)

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  4. I struggled with the ending to my book, too. I couldn't picture it at all until I actually got there and I still didn't quite know what to do. But I just wrote what felt right, and it certainly needs work, but it still feels like the right ending. If you've got a few ideas in mind, maybe try writing all of them and seeing which one fits. Or maybe you won't know until you get there.

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    1. Yes, I've got a couple of ideas, including one very distant epilogue. I'll have to see how it goes. Glad you found your ending :-)

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  5. I write myself into no man's land all the time. I just think you really have to trust yourself and your mind. The ending is there...in your mind, you just haven't realized it yet. Good-luck.

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  6. I don't usually know my endings ahead of time so I don't think I'll be much help here.

    I read somewhere that there's usually a hint of the ending in the beginning of the work. Maybe go back to your beginning and see if that points you in a certain direction?

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    1. There's something in that advice usually, but I'm not sure it works with this. Plus, the beginning really needs to change - I just read it, oh boy!!

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  7. I've written myself into no man's land, but while I was there, I found a way out of it and just rewrote. I almost never start a book unless I know the ending. And for some reason most of my endings are a cross between happy and Pyrrhic: the asteroid hit the earth and a bunch of people died in the resulting tsunami, but the heroes diverted it enough so it didn't strike NYC and kill 20 million, only thousands. But then again, I'm sort of mean like that.

    I think you might be having an issue of what constitutes an ending. it's a novel, so there must be change. I know this isn't news or anything, but not all endings are endings of plot. There's a sort of cheap film in the US called Weather Man starring Nicholas Cage. It isn't the movie you expect, but the story is the character's change and growth. The plot isn't resolved, but the character arc is. give it a try. Otherwise, I've got nothing.

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    1. Thanks Rena. I am the Queen of ambiguous endings, but in this case I've kind of decided what needs to happen just not how/when/where. I'm interested in the Nicholas Cage film too.

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  8. even Snoopy wrote himself into a corner. i'm sure you'll find your ending.

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    1. Ah, the great Snoopy. I think his major feat was balancing a typewriter on top of his dog house!

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  9. I usually have the end up front...they live happily ever after. But that's in the nature of my genre. You're right. The end must be satisfying. My advice is to let it chill a bit and your geniusness will think of something. Or send to a beta and get some input. You always know where to find me :)

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    1. I will take that advice and pander to my genius with lots of chocolate goodies... Yes, I know you didn't mention chocolate... :-) Thanks for the offer - when I've figured out what kind of mess the middle is in, I'll take you up on it!

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  10. Sad or depressing? Some 'depressing' endings are still good endings. Can you make it ambiguous, so that the reader is pretty sure what's happened but there's still a slight possibility they may be wrong and that alternative ending might be happier? I'd be happy to read it if you need yet another opinion!

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    1. It's depressing all the way through, and I don't know how it should end. I kinda had a plan. It might still work, it depends how I do it. And, of course, this ending means a huge rewrite for the rest of it... just the way I always work! Thanks for the offer, I'll be in touch when I can bear the thought of someone reading it :-)

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  11. I look to you for inspiration, because you are writing. Truly - I'm getting to write a post about my NaNo epic fail. I've got nothing, absolutely nothing. So - there's an ending in your future - it will come in a dream. Good luck and keep typing

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    1. Yes, I read your post yesterday. Novel writing is hard. You write brilliant flash and poetry - they are completely different skills. My skill is taking a very short book and making the words larger so it looks like a novel :-)

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  12. In the past I've always known my ending (at least a general idea) but now I'm struggling because I am working on my WIP and don't have an ending idea set in my mind. I'm finding I can't get started because I don't know how it's going to end!
    For the record I love dark and depressing stories so a depressing ending isn't necessarily a bad thing to me.

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    1. I usually need to know the ending too before I start. The difference here is that I rewrote an old story, but the ending was a plotline of its own, which I took away, leaving the characters dangling. I'm buoyed by all the people saying they like depressing stories though :-)

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  13. I never know the ending until I get there... then I have to go back and rewrite the whole book so it can fit that proper ending, LOL... I wish I was better at plotting ahead! :)

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    1. I spend so much time rewriting when a new plot thread occurs to me... But I don't think plotting is the answer - those new plots only occur as a result of the writing. If I plotted, the story wouldn't evolve in the same way.

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  14. Been there, done that. Much pulling-out-of-hair ensued also.

    No advice to give. Just keep beating that drum. That's what I did. You'll get there.

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    1. Thanks Wendy, yes, I'll keep writing and see what works :-)

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  15. I've struggled with endings. You seem stuck to this story, which is good, so give it time.

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    1. I am stuck on my MC - I just wish I could have given her a better life. I've recently added something which will make her life even worse :-( but hopefully make the story better...

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  16. I prefer happy endings even though life is rarely like that, but I also accept sad ones.
    I never have a clue where I'm going because I'm useless at plotting and never have a plot. The trouble with this is I can find I'm lost and do some deleting and rewriting. At least it's exciting for me because I don't know where the story's going. The ending comes to me about half way through, or at least how I'd like it to be.
    Don't expect your endings to be what you'd like them to be. You're a good writer and that's what counts.

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    1. I rarely have completely happy endings - it's a talking point when I do! You're right though - not plotting does make the process more exciting!

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  17. I don't really have advice to offer, but I do have a sympathetic shoulder for endings. Sometimes my stories have clear endings that fit, and other times I'm left wanting to chuck my computer out of the window. Good luck, I hope the ending comes to you!

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    1. Thanks Caitlin - I'm getting there, but only by rewritting/adding whole new narrative doofers (and yes, that is a technical term!)

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  18. In general, I struggle with endings. Things start off well, and then tend to fizzle out...
    I was once advised to try a different approach - work out the beginning and then the ending, but I haven't taken the advice... yet.

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    1. Usually I don't start until I have the ending. The problem with this was I deleted the ending I had when I rewrote it, because I stopped the story earlier - so everything has ended up a bit frayed.

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  19. Hey,

    Thanks for the kind words...

    ...and I'll be honest, I have no idea where I'm ending in the three WIPs I have on the burner... this is going to be a wild ride... I hope!

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    1. That sounds like so much fun. Enjoy the ride :-)

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  20. A lot of the time, I don't know where my stories are going. I trust the characters to lead me to the end. And yes, my pantser muse sometimes has failed. It requires setting the story aside for a bit and then coming back to it with a fresh mind, working more like a plotter to get the rhythm of the story and find the right ending.

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    1. I've spent a lot of time staring into space and thinking - it's work, honestly! :-) Setting it aside does work though.

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  21. Go the Shakespeare route, kill every character except two, and let them talk at the end. It might not fit, but it will be an ending. :)

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    1. That's awesome, but I think I might have used that technique once too often :-)

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  22. Hi Annalisa .. either have a glass or two of vino for a week or two and then see - if you can keep it up til 2014 - the whole balance of the earth may have shifted ... and your novel will have a whole new world to consider .. or go Libby's route .. kill off all the charadters -

    Crumbs - no wonder I don't write stories!! Happy weekend .. with or without the vino - Hilary

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    1. The wine is definitely a good idea Hilary. There's nothing better than writing with a glass beside me :-)

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  23. hmm. Good question! I've never had this problem before. I usually write my stories with an ending in mind--probably because I'm a plotter. I would probably re-read what I have so far in hopes of getting an idea as to the ending :)
    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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    1. Thanks Nutschell. Usually I have the ending, even if I have no idea how to get there, so this is a really weird situation for me. I think I'm getting there, but my final sentence is currently a question and I'm not sure if I like that or not!

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  24. Endings haven't ever been my problem. Sagging middles have, lol! I always know my ending and it will change slightly as I pull all the strings together. But that middle transition still gets me, darn it.

    Sia McKye Over Coffee

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    1. A sagging middle is what I'll have after I've spent days sitting down to figure this out LOL! I know what you mean though. I always have to rewrite the middle.

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  25. My endings seem to have a mind of their own. I always know where they roughly end up, but my current book decided it didn't want to end, and kept going for a few chps I hadn't expected. They sure do their own thing, don't they.

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  26. I'm a total pantser and have NO idea how my novel will end. I mean, I know what I'd LIKE to happen, but now that my MC is an alcoholic (yup, surprised me) I don't know if she can handle what I'd like...so we'll see. You have my complete sympathy and support. And to try Hilary's wine idea. Wine is the answer to all questions, in my opinion.
    Tina @ Life is Good

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    1. My character surprised me a couple of years ago when she picked up her first drink. But I've got used to that part now - it doesn't make it easy though, does it? Wine IS the answer :-)

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  27. Hmmm. That's a tough one. I hope it all works out for you...in the end!

    Sarah Allen
    (From Sarah, with Joy)

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    1. Thanks Sarah, I'm working through it slowly but surely. Hopefully they will be an obvious resolution soon :-)

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Please comment - I love a good chat!