QOTW: Writing Endings

14 Apr

Hey all, just a quick reminder, we are still having a Comedy Contest, the deadline for which is May 1st. We’ve got a few entries already and they look pretty solid, so whip out your banana peels and make some funny!

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Right now we’re doing a Question of the Week Week to alleviate our backlog of Questions. Today’s question is from Elizabeth:

Do you freak out when writing your climax? Do you try and avoid it? I’ve heard Libba Bray say that the times when she’s most running to the refrigerator or doing some other silly little task while writing, is when she’s about to tackle something important. Does this happen to you?

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I have to admit, this really doesn’t happen to me.  I do a lot of “back story” before I begin my manuscript, so I know my characters really well.  When it comes time to write the climax or any other big scene, I throw my characters into it and it gets written because I just let them act and react to the situation without much control on my part.  (Also, I don’t fret over the style and quality of the writing when I’m doing the first draft.  I just get it down on the page.)

Now description is a totally different thing for me!  All the back story in the world won’t make it any easier to write a paragraph of description!  THAT’S when I find myself making a zillion trips to the refrigerator!

-The Newest LTWF Contributor Who is Already Out on Submissions!

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I rush through the ending. I just want it done, done, done. Because my first drafts are crap.

Complete, utter crap. When I started writing YOU WISH, it kind of freaked me out– becuase I kept looking at Prada & Prejudice (the shiny, published version) and thinking, OMG I CANNOT DO THIS AGAIN.

But then I realized something: P&P started out as utter crap too. So if I can get this stupid ugly draft done, then maybe I can revise it.

So I kind of went off on a tangent here, but my point is– I rush straight through the end so that I can make it something other than total junk. But if I dont write the end– if I avoid it– I’ll never be able to do that.

-The Literary Agent and Writer With a New Book Deal!

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Congrats on finishing a project! Usually when I’m writing I have a very clear idea of the ending, and of course as a writer my ideas come with word descriptions. So typically I’m writing on the ending all throughout the book, and by the time I’m ready to connect the middle bits with the ending, the ending has already been edited a bunch of times as I’ve combed over it, and is actually the best part of the book. I’m always eager to record the grand and dramatic moments so I don’t forget how they feel in my head; those are my favorite part to write and I’ll pretty much abandon any other part of the story in order to get to them.

My ‘running to the refrigerator’ moments come when I have to give a scene a complete rewrite and it’s going to be painful, or when I have to write something I’m not exactly sure will turn out with the purpose I want (ie when I don’t have a clear idea of where I’m going).

-The Writer Waiting on Submissions

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Actually, the things I usually figure out when I first come up with a story idea are the beginning and climax/ending. I LOVE writing climaxes, because they’re often the part of the story that I look the most forward to (and thus become a reward for writing the entirety of the book). However, because they’re so emotionally draining, I will often set aside an entire day for them–and make sure my fridge is stocked with caffeinated drinks!

But don’t drive yourself crazy trying to nail the climax in the first draft–you will have plenty of time to revise and polish it up!

The Writer With Her First Book Deal

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The points where I slack off the most or do research or get distracted by the internet are normally the boring parts or slow parts of a project. I don’t like writing them as much but they’re necessary to connect the interesting parts or provide needed information. I tend to write my major scenes, or at least parts of them, earlier in the process. They’re the things that keep me awake at night, demanding that I get my computer back out and write them down. I think the most difficult part for me (which I just relearned as I was finishing my WIP) is the connecting section between the last event and the climax, the part that actually brings the characters to the tensest moments. I have trouble building up to that.

-The Writer Querying Agents

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I don’t worry about messing up the climax. As I always say: You can’t expect to write the scene perfectly in your first attempt. I just open the dam and allow for my excitement to flood out. I know the writing quality might not be top notch. But I’m usually too excited to stop and edit. I just write and write. I capture the scene that I’ve been longing to write since chapter one. And I write quickly because I’m afraid I might lose that excitement. Sometimes, however, the climax isn’t as fun to write as I imagined. In those cases it takes me several tedious attempts (writing, deleting, rewriting, deleting) before I finally write the climax as it should be.

-Writer Who Got A Full Request

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I…love writing the exciting stuff. Sometimes I’ll think of scenes months in advance that have to come later, and for my current novel I’ve had the ending in my head for literally more than a year before I finally wrote it down. Knowing about the climax actually motivates me to write faster and helps me connect scenes better.

That said though, I never actually sit down and say “And now I’m going to write the end!” So far, every single thing I’ve written that’s exciting or climactic has come out either in a totally unexpected place, or a fair amount of pages into my writing session. I always have a kind of lead-up to rile me up and get my adrenaline pumping, so that by the time I get to the exciting bits it’s all flowing out because I feel the same sense of urgency and need of the characters to throw a punch or RUN.

And don’t worry about messing it up. Just write. Pour out all the excitement you feel for it. You can always go back later with a clearer mind and fix it.

~-The Writer Editing her First Novel (Who Also Just Got a Twitter Account!)

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I find that the times I procrastinate most while writing is when working on scenes that I’ve planned out in my head. For some reason, I have a hard time getting through those in one sitting without getting up to get a snack or a drink, or checking Twitter or Facebook. When I’m just writing and going with it without a clear idea of where I’m headed, I tend to find it much easier; I fly through when writing those as-I-go scenes, no matter how significant (or insignificant) they are. Even if it’s the climax of my story, I find that if I didn’t plan it out in advance, it just comes to me quite naturally when I write. Editing, however, is a different story; I find it more daunting to edit those pivotal scenes. But yes, I definitely understand what you mean about worrying whether or not you’ll mess it up. When I’ve planned it out, it is definitely a huge worry, which in turn leads me to put it off. Which is why I try to let my characters just take me on a ride when I write; that way, I don’t see what’s coming!

-The Intern Writing her First Book

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How do YOU feel about writing endings?

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You can ask us a Question of the Week by clicking on QOTW in the upper part of our website and leaving us a comment. We try to answer Questions in the order they are received, unless something is really pressing.

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21 Responses to “QOTW: Writing Endings”

  1. Praya April 14, 2010 at 1:41 AM #

    I cannot emphasise enough how much I love this blog. I love it. A lot. Enough said. Haha

    I’ve only finished one novel, but ending is something I definitely freak out over and struggle with. Sometimes there are scenes that come to me as a climax, but more often than not, they don’t. For short stories I tend to start with an awesome ‘what if’ kind of question and then the ending comes into focus, slowly, but surely. Sort of like driving down a highway at night and only being able to see as far ahead as your headlights. Problem with that approach is that it’s a fast track to writer’s block.

    Oh and I totally agree with Vanessa- the scenes you plan the longest are the ones you end up distracted in. Sometimes the best stuff happens when it just writes itself, you know? Or when you do as Mandy says and just rush to the finish line.

    PS I haven’t forgotten about the contest, I have many ideas swimming around in my head and I’ve allocated my Sunday afternoon to getting something down. 🙂

    • Julie Eshbaugh April 14, 2010 at 9:56 AM #

      Hey Praya! It’s so awesome to know you love LTWF!
      Your metaphor of driving at night and only seeing as far as your headlights is so accurate!! I feel that way a lot when I write if I haven’t planned ahead. Can be good AND bad!

    • Vanessa April 14, 2010 at 12:00 PM #

      I think its funny how the scenes that are so thought-out are the ones that will be the most difficult to write – probably because then we’re just over-thinking.

      But yeah, the way I write does often lead to writer’s block; because eventually, I start going nowhere. So like Julie said, its both good AND bad!

      And can I just say how your comment about loving this blog totally made my day? Cause it did!! 😀

    • Biljana April 14, 2010 at 9:21 PM #

      The scenes that write themselves are SO much fun.

      And yes! Get that entry in! 😀 I can’t wait to read it!

  2. Samantha W April 14, 2010 at 3:30 AM #

    They really don’t bother me at all (yet, I suppose). For one of my WIP I knew how it was ending before I really knew anything else. For others, the climax usually builds up to itself, and comes together without my realizing it. I think it’s kind of exciting, and gives you something to look forward to. 🙂

    • Julie Eshbaugh April 14, 2010 at 9:59 AM #

      Samantha, I completely agree with looking forward to it. It almost feels the way it does when you’re the one reading the book! Usually I can’t wait to see the ending, but at the same time I wish it would never end. 🙂

  3. Gabriela da Silva April 14, 2010 at 11:12 AM #

    Like others here, I pretty much have the ending thought of before I got the rest of the narration.

    In fact, I usually have several scenes already in my head – something from the beggining, two or three around the middle, something crazy dramatic towards the end (climax, I suppose) and then the melancholic ending.

    I define writing as “thinking up excuses to get the characters from each scene to the following”, which is not completely true but not far off from it either.

    I keep my mind open, however – if this one scene (climatic or not) just doesn’t work anymore with the way things shaped up, or would be better if I did it differently, I change it according to the flow of the story.
    As Vanessa said, it’s most fun when you write as-you-go… so I allow that even for pre-planned scenes.

    • Vanessa April 14, 2010 at 12:04 PM #

      I envy those who are able to see their stories so clearly in their minds! For me, its always a character or a scene or a world that demands to be written down; and the rest just comes after.

      I end up being just as surprised as anyone reading my stories when I write! Which is great, because when I sit down and start typing, all I can think is, “OMG! I can’t believe that just happened!” – which is funny, considering the fact that I’m the one writing it. Which is why I love writing as I go, and why I’m having particular trouble writing my novel; I’ve been planning it for 5 years in my head, and its gone through so many different drafts (mental drafts :p), that it can be a bit of a struggle figuring out which way I want it to turn out. So when I stop thinking about it so much, it becomes that much easier (and much more enjoyable!)

      • svonnah April 14, 2010 at 12:24 PM #

        Hey, I’m writing an article now about writing with a map :D. It was so helpful to write out my plot summary… I eventually had 4 pages of it and it made me feel so great to know where I was going.

      • Gabriela da Silva April 14, 2010 at 1:08 PM #

        Yes, I totally agree – writing a “map” or a diagram for the story proccesion is extremely useful.

        Take my novel – I wrote it as I went, without any map to help. The result? I had to do TONS of editing, even completely re-writing the first half.
        Now that I’m working on the sequel, I’m doing diagrams and the planning is going smooth. I still change plenty of things and one draft doesn’t look like the other at all, but with each new one more and more things stay and it’s starting to shape up.

        You should try this, Vanessa! Write your drafts in very basic form (They go here –> Meet this guy –> OMG betrayal?? –> Escape, get to city) but don’t use a computer! Creativity, I’ve found, flows and flows on real paper. It will help you SO much to actually visualize what will go on!

      • Biljana April 14, 2010 at 9:27 PM #

        I agree with Sav and Gaby. Maps really help an extraordinary amount, if only because you don’t forget where you wanted to go.

        And YES I completely agree about penning them down! It’s an easier way to get the stream of consciousness you’re going for and you can go all over the page and still know what you’re doing.

      • Vanessa April 17, 2010 at 1:01 PM #

        I think I will try that!!!

  4. Catherine April 14, 2010 at 2:51 PM #

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE writing the climax. I think that’s the only reason that I can make it through the middle, sometimes. I usually have a very good idea of what’s going to happen, sometimes down to the paragraph. I have an hour round trip drive to school every day, so to and from I contemplate my story’s plot and characters. It’s very nice for me, to be able to let that percolate in my head so that when I get to the climax I can dash it off in a couple days.

    When I get to the end of a story I’m writing upwards of 5,000 words a day because I’m so excited to be at the big culmination of the plot. And then I reread it, think it’s terrible, and do major edits. 😀

    • Julie Eshbaugh April 14, 2010 at 4:46 PM #

      Wow! I’m uber-impressed with your 5k+ words per day when you’re nearing the end, even if it does still need major revisions afterwards. At least you get it all down on paper where it can start to take shape! 🙂

  5. Myra April 14, 2010 at 4:34 PM #

    I just wish I could get to the end of a novel of mine, honestly. ;p I’m working on it.

    I can’t wait to get to the end, sometimes, to write the climax and the dénouement and THE END… but I’m also intimidated by the idea. A bad ending can ruin a good book, so there’s a lot of pressure for the ending to live up to the rest of the novel.

    • Julie Eshbaugh April 14, 2010 at 4:42 PM #

      Hi Myra,
      I know how you feel. I have this issue about not wanting to say that the manuscript has been through its FINAL revision. As long as something isn’t finished, you can still improve it, right? But you have to trust yourself. If you wrote a great novel, your ending WILL live up to it!

      • Biljana April 14, 2010 at 9:30 PM #

        Exactly. You’re going to have to make that leap one day. You just have to go for it. Sometimes without looking, if I may be corny about it ;).

  6. Rowenna April 15, 2010 at 9:51 AM #

    I’m terrible at planning endings. Really bad. I like writing them once I get there, but deciding what to do–I’m terrible! I didn’t know how my first one was going to end, and then I played with killing a main character (he didn’t like it and neither did I) and then it just kind of appeared while I was picking blackberries. So then I had to rush home to type something up with my blackberry-juice spattered fingers! And the end of the one I’m writing now came to me while I was drinking coffee and watching an old couple buy bagels. I suppose I’m sticking with the wait for the ending to appear method…but it feels so dicey!

    • Vanessa April 17, 2010 at 1:04 PM #

      I am the exact same way! Half the time, I have a vague sense of how the story will end, and will just keep writing till it comes to me; and THEN I rush home or find whatever I can to jot it down on.

      But when that little moment of epiphany comes, it’s great! My fave moments are when I suddenly come up with something out of the blue like that.

  7. TymCon April 17, 2010 at 10:56 AM #

    I really look forward to the climax of the story. It’s the tension that i’m trying to create that worries me:S
    Oh btw this blog is actually preety good. I did’nt know what to expect when i first heard about itXD

    • Vanessa April 17, 2010 at 1:08 PM #

      I think that after a bit of editing and revisions, you can get the tension you want. I’m a firm believer that your first draft isn’t a clear indication of just how amazing your work can be! Of course, I also LOVE editing; I have a hard time forcing myself to just pump out the story so that I can get to the editing part, haha!!

      I’m usually worried that my climax won’t be as epic as I want it to be; but once I get to it, I love writing it!

      And I’m glad you like the blog!! 😀

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