Shannon Dittemore is the author of the Angel Eyes trilogy. She has an overactive imagination and a passion for truth. Her lifelong journey to combine the two is responsible for a stint at Portland Bible College, performances with local theater companies, and a focus on youth and young adult ministry. For more about Shan, check out her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
Today, my friends, I thought we’d talk about endings. If you’re nowhere close to your ending, that is perfect! Thinking about these things now will help. If you’ve made it, if you’re creeping up on a resolution, also fantastic! The last words you pen are just as important as those first words and I cannot overstate the importance of an author feeling their story has ended just where it should.
First, we need to address a rather sticky matter. To plan or not to plan? I have my own experiences to share with you, sure, but I did a little research as well. And the truth is, like every other bit of advice, the tried and true authors out there are split on the issue.
Take this piece of advice I found in an article called “Seven Extremely Good Reasons to Write Your Ending First” by Amanda Patterson.
Good advice, yes? Author Rose Tremain would beg to differ. Here’s what she has to say.
I do not believe endings can be told what to do. In that way, I agree with Tremain. I believe endings must be the inevitable outworking of your story. But, that doesn’t mean I disagree with Patterson. Because some of us can only reach that inevitable ending with a good dose of planning.
In my own writing life, as I’m sure you can already guess, I’m about half and half. I don’t write my endings first. I’ve tried. I’m not good at it and I end up with a bunch of stuff that has to be cut. I do, sometimes, write my endings before I write my climax though. Can you guess why?
It’s simple really. The final scene of a story leaves the reader with one last image. But until I pen it, it doesn’t exist for me. And while I’m writing that last reversal, that last teetering moment of decision, I, as the author, need to have cemented in my mind what the stakes truly are. Seeing the end makes that possible for me.
You might be different. I have a friend who plots the entire novel before she sits down at the computer. My brain doesn’t work that way. But the reason I know that is because I’ve tried. I’ve tried it her way and I couldn’t make it work.
So, maybe today’s advice is this. Be willing to try different things. Especially if you’re stuck. I wonder, how different would your story be if you wrote that ending first? How different would it be if you plotted the whole shebang? I don’t know. But giving one or both of these strategies a shot will certainly teach you something about who you are as a writer. AND! You may even stumble onto the perfect ending for that story of yours.
So, tell me! Have you tried writing your ending first? Do you plot before you begin? Or do you start with a single moment and build from there? Would you be willing to try something new or does that terrify the creature of habit that lives inside your head?