The end from the beginning- how to finish a book
So back in April a fan sent me a message asking about my writing process. They specifically wanted to know how to end a story. I was super excited that I told them I would write a blog post about it. But then the world kind of fell apart and well I just messaged them back TOODAY! So, here's what I told them:
Sorry! Things got crazy there for a bit with the whole, you know, world pandemic where people with antibodies are now super valuable in the saving the world and stuff (uh-that's totally my book! so crazy!) So the blog post never got finished. How funny since that's exactly what the topic was on- how to finish something. So for starters don't start writing something right before a pandemic because the whole world ending, distress, peril and what not can kind of get distracting :)
My biggest advice on how to finish a writing project is to make sure you can see the end from the beginning. Often times we start writing a story too soon, before we are ready, and then we hit a part in the plot that we get stuck because we don't really know where we're going with all of this. I know how hard it is to be super excited about an idea and it's so unique and amazing and you love your characters and you can't wait to share them with the whole world so you just want to write it right now dang it! But don't. A story is so much more than just an idea with some characters. Make sure you mull over your idea long enough so that you can at least have a vague idea of what's going to happen first.
I am a hybrid plotter and panser. I don't plot out the entire book, writing down each thing that happens in each chapter nor do I write blindly with absolutely no clue what's going to happen next. I have several key events and climaxes that I know need to happen and I have a small idea of how it should wrap up in the end. All the details of how they get from point a to b I leave up to the characters. Sometimes if I start to feel lost I do put the events in order on paper by my computer as a checkpoint. Right now I have an awesome idea for an epic fantasy novel. I've been sitting on it for over a year now letting it ripen in my head because I have no clue how it will end. But every day I think of a new characteristic someone should have, necessary plot line, or cool thing that should happen and I jot it all down while I work on other projects. So If you're getting stuck in a story, not knowing how to finish it, maybe step back and do some plotting. Make lists of events that have already happened, and that should still happen.
Another thing I like to have firmly set in place before I start writing is a very clear idea of who my characters are. They are a key component to moving the story along. Sometimes I often feel like the story is writing itself for me because I'm merely putting down what these characters are already doing. They become predictable to me and their dialogue is unquestionable. So if you're stuck maybe get to know your characters better. Make web charts of characters and how they're all connected (Luke is related to Leah and Darth Vader but also apprentice to Obi who has history with Vader and Leah is dating his best friend...) Draw circles around the characters names and see how many different connections they can make! tThis can help create natural tension and events that already exists and that can help move the plot along. Often we can end stories with relationship twists. Taking an already established connection and revealing new information that puts that relationship in question. (Friend to foe sort of thing or vice versa) The line "Luke, I am your father" is so well known because it gave such a shock- it broke several relationship connections we thought we already knew and made you reform them as different kind of relationships ("eww I kissed my sister!":)
And if all that doesn't work then maybe step back and work on something else. Sometimes writing another idea will generate inspiration of how to fix the first idea. Sometimes two stories end up combining to make an even better one. I had two ideas once- one was a 15th century tale of witch hunters, one was a modern day love story about magic. I wrote one as a short story that won honorable mention in the WOTF contest and in the process of writing it figured out how the modern story would end. Then I used the short story as dream sequences in between chapters of the contemporary fantasy novel and boom- it turned out amazing! So excited to edit and query that book someday!
Anywho- Don't give up! Just keep writing, Just keep writing (to the tune of finding Nemo's: just keep swimming:) and never stop thinking up crazy ideas that have never been thought before and writing things no one has written before! Remember why you write and move on!
Hope this is helpful and not too rambly! Good luck and happy writing!