Friday, May 10, 2013
HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL IN TWELVE STEPS: The Ending (#STEP EIGHT)
HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL (STEP EIGHT: THE ENDING)
Put on those working boots and WORK, Lovelies. Remember you are no where near finished. You are only on the ROUGH DRAFT in your journey of novel-dom.
That said, sometimes it pays to think about the ending at the beginning.
Then again, I think the ending writes itself (metaphorically, of course).
You still have to be the one to input those words.
If you’ve drafted the beginning and the middle, by now you have a strong feeling of where your novel is headed.
If you don’t, you should probably go back and elaborate until you do have a strong feeling of where it’s headed. It may be in an initial plan (ie. Phoebe and Mouche go to Paris…)
· Your ending doesn’t have to be perfect.
· Remember, we are just completing the draft.
I don’t know about you but my endings aren’t even close to finished – as in ‘polished’ by my first, second and third drafts, mostly. Pride & Princesses was different. The ending was very important to me because it allowed me to ‘get away’ with the light tone that covers most of the novel. I wanted to bring some resonance to the beginning, to change things. I like to be surprised when I read. That said, some of my retellings are true to the original stories (particularly Anne Eyre which is based on Jane Eyre). Retellings are meant to be just that. Anne Eyre, Wuthering Nights and Truly are ‘inspired’ by Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and Persuasion. I’m not trying to re-invent the wheel with them, I’m just trying to re-enjoy stories I loved.
So, here’s where we’re at:
· The ending should complete the story
· In some way, it should satisfy.
When I say, ‘in some way’ please note I’m not saying, ‘in all ways.’
You are NEVER going to please all the people all the time.
Well, probably never. You should aim to please yourself, in the first instance. This is very important.
I’m not saying all endings of ‘good novels’ (and this is subjective), satisfy.
Some leave many unanswered questions.
The ending of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (those who know me know this is one of my favourite novels on the planet!) leaves some questions. It is ‘interpretable’ by the reader – well, I thought it was.
In my opinion, an ending that asks more questions than it answers is no less of an ending than one that ties it all up in a ribbon.
If it’s the last page of the novel, people, it’s the ending!
· Make it unique
· Make it memorable
· Make it speak to you (& your readers)
If you read the ending (or the final chapter) and you felt differently at the end of that last sentence than you did at the beginning of your draft - if it made you feel something, then you’ve completed your mission – the first part of it, anyway.
That’d be great.
At this point you could show it to fresh eyes. But I wouldn’t. You may be exhausted drained and ‘over it’ already, but take a few days and re-charge. Some people are critics by nature and many people think they can write a novel – they may even start to tell you about theirs – but we’re interested in yours (and mine!)
I did something with the ending of Pride & Princesses that a few readers found ‘controversial’.
I thought twice about doing it, but in the end, the main character told that story her way - I just typed the words into my laptop. I know that sounds weird but there was almost a strange kind of alchemy in the ending of that story. I always thought of it as the completion of a tapestry. This YA, appearing so basic, has a (hidden!) complexity by the finale.
I have no way of explaining the ‘elixir’ of an ending – the novel draft has a beginning, middle and the beginning of the end. All I know is, if you’ve done that…
You have your first draft.
The writing of your draft, the basis of your novel, is going to be kind of a mystery wrapped around a riddle.
If you’ve done your homework (found your space, your seat, your desk, your food, your support network), educated yourself about what you want to write about, somehow found ‘inspiration’ from all the words in your mind or the sketches you draw. If you've formed some sort of comprehensible order to them, you should have a draft by now.
It’s probably taken you a few weeks (anything from one – if you literally haven’t stopped writing – to six). I would try to complete that first draft in a month – depending on the complexity. Obviously, if you are writing Anna Karenina you are not going to complete the draft that quickly!
I do my first drafts as quickly as possible. It’s just the way I work. My first drafts are usually not very good – but they are mine. You might want to take longer, but don’t take too long. This may sound weird, but you might actually lose interest in your own writing if you leave that first draft too long before the next part – refining it, again and again and again...
And that’d be terrible, really, it would. Forget about everything everyone else tells you. Who says your voice isn’t worth hearing?
Certainly not me.
*Of course, if even you think your first draft is really really terrible, if it captures your attention by just how bad it is, congratulations. You have enough taste to recognize this! You might want to call on some help, but that’s up to you. That belongs in a different series.
For the purposes of this we are a ‘go-it-alone-or-go-home’ kind of ‘how-to-series’.
I’m not saying ‘going it alone’ is the only way to go, but if you’re broke and living in an attic… well, you might not have any choice in the matter.