Thursday, May 19, 2011

On Endings

Or, more to the point, on not knowing how to end things. Lots of folks have spent lots of time talking about what kind of writers they are. Pantsers, Gardners, Architects, Plotters.... what it all boils down to, for me anyway, is this: Do you know how it will end?

To this point, only my first novel, one in which I have rewritten a hundred times, that is out on submission right now, and that I keep discovering things that no real writer does, I did. That book, I had an ending in mind right from the beginning. I also had my premise... but no idea of how to get my MC from the beginning to the end.

That book, in a lot of ways, is a labor of love for me. I don't know if it's really ever going to be publishable. But dammit, it means a lot to me. So I keep tinkering with it, over and over, I've added characters, removed them, added a subplot, introduced a love interest, all after the original first draft was written. I should have trunked the thing and moved on, but I can't let go. I think there is something in there, deep, that needs to get out, but I don't know if I can pull it out of what I have written.

In the end, after I feel like I've done my due diligence when it comes to seeking professional markets, I'll probably create a pen name, and sneak it out to the Kindle or something so I can have my precious, but not quite right, baby.

But that was a big digression, everything else I've ever written. Ever. I've had no idea of how it was going to end when I began. I'm more of a premise kinda guy. "Hey, what if the scene starts with a one legged male prostitute that finds a dead baby cupid in an alley, then he opens a matchmaking service with quiver full of love arrows?"

That's how they all start. Not with that exact premise, but with a scene or set of circumstances dancing around in my head. I'll start there and go until the story works itself out.

I've decided that method may work, but it's inefficient as hell. My last novel that I drafted had a pattern emerge pretty quickly. A group of people were being chased by an assassin, they sit and discuss why they've been targeted for a while, then get chased, talk about why, get chased, etc. The rational part of me knows that is me trying to work out the story myself, so I'm all over the place, essentially asking the characters to tell me what's happening as I write. Ugh.

I do like the premise, of course I like the premise of all my stuff, but it take so much work to turn stuff like that into something that's even readable, let alone publishable, I think I'm going to try to change things up a bit. I'm going to try, and I mean really try, to really plot things out before I start writing my next piece. I'm not saying I wouldn't be willing to change some stuff as I go, but I've got to have a plan, I just have to.

So, I'll finish up this short story, play some more with my Wacam tablet, then get to outlining. Can't wait.

Anyway, saw this pic of mine from facebook and thought I'd share.

I'm not saying it is photoshopped, but I'm not saying it isn't, either.


Rogue Mutt said...

My favorite author John Irving always writes the last sentence first. And he never changes it. Most of the time I have a vague idea of how the story is going to end at least.

Though in my one novel I had to go through four or five variations of the ending before I found the one I wanted. Mostly because I had to allow myself to end it the way I wanted to end it.

There was old wisdom I read somewhere that if you have a problem at the ending then it's because you have a fatal flaw at the start of the story. I've had that bear itself out too.

Andrew Leon said...

I've pretty much always had an ending in mind when I start anything. I can't really write if I don't have somewhere to go with it. (I'm like that with driving, too. My wife used to like to just go out and drive around. It was very frustrating for her when she tried to introduce me to that concept. I kept asking "where are we going?" There is one good thing about high gas prices: there's -never- and urge to just go drive around, anymore.) I do have one exception, though. I have this great idea. Concept. I think it's awesome, and, as far as I can tell, hasn't been done. I have an opening scene that's mostly written. I have some ideas for the middle. But I don't know what to do with it. very frustrating.

On your first novel, have you tried just sitting down with your original concept and just starting over? Just tear it down and start again?

Trisha said...

For me, sometimes I have an ending in mind, and sometimes I don't. ;) Either way, I usually don't have the middle figured out till I get to it. :P

Last year's NaNo however was pretty much all planned out.

Rusty Webb said...

Rogue - sound advice I suppose. I'd like to be a planner, so I'm going to give it a shot. We'll see if I can get that perfect ending first, then work backwards from there.

Andrew - Actually, I did that once before. The first time I wrote it was a very long time ago and it was as big a mess as anything I'd ever done. Funny thing though, I actually enjoy reading it still, but it's more like an exciting story as told by an 11 year old than it is a real novel.

I revised the dickens out of it for a year or so before I gave up worked on other things, later I started over from scratch. The second version of the novel has been revised, on and off, for around 5 or 6 years now. Portions of it just feel like they were written by different people, I should probably just go all the way back to the drawing board and try to do it right... but the lazy part of me (or sensible) wants to put this one to bed. I'm not sure I've got another straight from scratch redo in me for that one. It might be time to move on.

Su said...

Heh. I kinda blogged about the same thing today-- I don't know how to end things. Must practise...

Andrew Leon said...

heh... I have an unfinished post, actually, about why writers abandon various bits of work. But, um, I didn't have an ending for it.

Ultimately, it's something only you can figure out. However, have you had people read it and give feedback on it?

I do have to say that there's nothing wrong with it sounding like it's from an 11-year-old if that's your audience. Not that I know whom your audience is, and that could have been an insult.

alberta ross said...

I always have the end firmly in mind (except the very first one) before I start writing it is the beginning I spend endless hours wondering about - in fact I have the whole story in my head before I start - t WIP at moment was praticaly finished before I got the idea of the beginning and it's still not clear - ah well

good luck with yours

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

PhotoShopped? You mean, you're actually walking a toy poodle instead?
For some reason, I always see the ending before I begin writing.
And don't give up on the first effort. One day you might take the initial idea and create something great. Really, if you could just see the first version of CassaStar, you would believe!

Rusty Webb said...

Trisha - the middle, it is the place that things get hard. I feel like I can rock a beginning, and even though I don't know how it will end, I'm pretty sure the good guys will win, or at least, the bad guys won't. Middles though, that's usually where I have the cast sit down at a restaurant for about 40,000 words and talk out their feelings.

Su - I did read your blog post, and we did choose the same topic. Weird.

Andrew - I do agree, however, as was pointed out to me on something unrelated, I think it still applies to this point. It's great if you offer the illusion that the story is being told by an eleven year old, but not seem like it's actually told by someone that age. Specifically, if my story sounded like it came from an eleven year old, it would be by accident.

Alberta - Wow. I'm impressed with how you work then. The beginnings are the easiest part for me. I'm not saying they're any good, but they do come easy.

Alex - No, the dog was brown, also, I may have color corrected the trees. Thanks for the advice. I'll make a decision on what I'll do with it soon. Thinking seriously about what I'll do. If it's unsellable as is, I'll either go back to square one, or if I don't think it's worth it, maybe create a pen name (so as not to sully my good name should I release something I'm proud of later), and put it out there for the world to have - at a deep discount.

But I'll deal with that later.

Suze said...

Rogue Mutt (and blog owner) I read that about John Irving. Easy for respected, published authors to come out with hooey that sounds good after the fact.

Nah, I'm only joking. *Deep breath* Do we, as writers, know the end from the beginning? I think at some level, yeah.

What do your characters answer when you ask them where they're going, Rusty? For me that'd be a hell of a lot more reliable than an outline.

(And more interesting.)

Two cents.

Rusty Webb said...

Suze - good advice, although my characters only tell me things like, how hungry they are, that they need a nap, that sort of stuff. I just plunge on through until I have something sorta recognizable as prose and call myself happy.