WRITING – STARTING WITH THE FINISH

Welcome to 2010 everyone, and I hope it’s a safe, happy and succesful year for you.

Logic dictates that I should be starting the new year with a post about beginning a story – but seeing as logic has never been my strong point, I’m starting 2010 with a post about how to handle the end.

Probably selfish I know, but relevant to me at this point in my novel’s ‘creation life’. That’s because I am currently in the throes, wrestling with, doing grapple tackles on my new YA novel, Street Racer – and it’s the ending that needs the most work.

See, my problem is, that I’m a little bit like a Racer in the way I write. When I see the end in sight, I put my foot on the accelerator and go for it – don’t stop till I reach the end. In fact, sometimes, I’m in such a hurry that I make wrong turns, forget to check out the scenery – and have even been known to lose a character along the way.

This year, being a new year, I’m trying a new approach to story endings and so far it seems to be working.

What I’ve realised is that it’s important to take your ending away from the rest of the story and treat it as if it were the start. In fact, this is something you can do with any parts of your story that you feel aren’t working as well as they should be.

Here’s what I mean, when it comes to endings. Take the last fifty pages of your story and rewrite them with the same diligence, care and love you have devoted to the start. If you are anything like me – you will have written, reworked, agonised over and polished that beginning until it shines – that’s after all what all the writing experts tell you to do; that this is the part that will impress the publisher or agent.

But what generally happens with my endings is…..well, I leave them till last. That makes them a bit like the last Christmas present to unwrap, the last week of the school year, the last day of the holidays – you just don’t face them with the same enthusiasm. I’ve realised it’s all about changing your thinking.

If you take the end away, detach it from your story…..and then rewrite it; you won’t run out of steam. Treat it as a new piece. Break it down chapter by chapter, page by page, word by word – until every single part of it is the best it can be. With any luck you’ll find that by doing this, you’ll give your story ending the same vibrance, clarity and spark as the beginning.

Hope this works for you. Would love to know if you can relate to this way of writing, or you may have a completely different solution to offer.

Feel free to leave your comments, and share with other writers the way that you work.

Dee:-)

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16 thoughts on “WRITING – STARTING WITH THE FINISH

  1. I have to admit I usually stall before writing the endings. The inner editor in me is berrating me about the middle and usually the beginning and wanting me to turn around and fix those. As such, I usually write very slowly and am thinking very hard about how I want the story to end. The ending is one of the few parts of the story I don’t have to endlessly rewrite (though if I change too much of the earlier story the ending needs to change sometimes).
    Thanks for sharing your advice on endings and you are right in that the technique will help with any part of the story that is having issues.

  2. Thanks for commenting Cassandra. I love hearing about how other writers write. I usually have the ending in mind right from the start – but it can change as the characters take the story in a different direction. Writers have so many different ways of writing, and it’s interesting to hear that you don’t have to endlessly rewrite your endings. One of my new year’s resolutions is to try and ignore the finish line – even when it’s in sight. If I can make myself take the foot off the accelerator, I might reduce my number of rewrites too:-)

    Thanks for sharing.

    Dee:-)

  3. I’m like that too, Dee. I love getting to the endings and I’m eager to get there.

    I create so many problems for the MC and hope that the reader wonders how the story can possibly have a happy ending. Then when they read the last few paragraphs they find everything is tied together with one big bow, usually with a twist at the end.

    I love my endings, but Iโ€™m never happy with my first chapter. I always edit the first one forever. Pity we canโ€™t send the endings to agents and publishers instead.

    ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. This is great info for me at the moment, I am trying to rewrite my first chapter that lacks emotional punch. But the thing that is on my mind at the moment is the end, so I might just get the end down on paper and then go back to the beginning! Thanks for the advice and tips and invite ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Trisha, that’s exactly what I have a tendency to do. But I’m starting to find that I need more of a transition between the problems I throw at the MC and the happy ending – this makes it more credible for the reader.

    Thanks for dropping in, Trisha.

    Hope you have a great year in 2010.

    Dee:-)

  6. Thanks for dropping in, Paula,

    So glad that this has helped you. Good luck with your writing and wishing you every success in 2010. If there are other writing questions that you’d like advice or discussion on, feel free to leave a question on the discussion board of my Facebook group http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=205664860085 DeeScribe Writing Tips and News, and hopefully we can help you sort it out.

    Dee:-)

  7. Oh Dee! Why didn’t I think of that? You may have saved me from more sleepless nights. I’ve known the ending of my story in a general sort of way for months – but its just been sitting in my head waiting for my writing to catch up.
    Now I can get on write the ending and then work on what comes between the beginning and the end. Thank you!
    Mabel ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Thanks for dropping in, Mabel. Glad I have saved you more sleepless nights. I must admit I don’t usually write the ending first – but I tend to take it away from the rest of the story in the editing process and treat it as a new piece. This helps me identify whether I have raced for the finish line again – and if their is more explaining and transitioning to do. There are no hard and fast rules in this ‘writing business’ LOL, but for me, I think I write better when I know where my story is going.

    Happy writing – hope you’ll let us know how you go with yours:-)

    Dee

  9. It’s interesting to read about your writing process, because it seems so different from mine. Some of the things you struggle with aren’t on my radar, which makes me wonder what you’d have to say about the things I struggle with. ๐Ÿ™‚

    To continue with your racing analogy (and I say this from experience, having been an amateur stock car racer) the important thing to remember at the end of the race is not to get so giddy over seeing the checkered flag that you lose concentration. You have to be just as focused in those last laps or you might get stuffed into the wall, let another car get by, or most embarrassing of all, spin yourself out. It’s very easy to get psyched out at the end of the race (at least it was for me), and I guess it’s just as easy for some
    writers to get psyched out at the end of the book.

    Your method of overcoming the problem seems very logical to me, regardless of your self-assessment of your logic skills. ๐Ÿ™‚

    BTW, I couldn’t find your book on Amazon.com. In fact when I Googled it I was on page 2 of the results before I came to a site that sold it. Any way you could get it listed with Amazon? You might have better sales in the States if you did. Also, you might want to provide a link to a site that sells it online so people who run across your blog would have an easier time buying it. I’m guessing I’m not going to find it on the shelves of my local Barnes and Noble here in Oregon.

  10. Hi Lisa, I’d be really interested to know about the things you struggle with – maybe we could start a blog discussion at my facebook group Dee Scribe Writing Tips & News http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=205664860085 and there may be other writers with the same struggles who might be able to offer you tips and suggestions.

    I love your racing experience and analogy. I am definitely one of those people who get giddy over seeing the checkered flag:-)

    Thanks for asking about my book. I’m not sure what the deal is with Amazon seeing as my book isn’t published in the US yet. You can buy it online at http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au/Letters-to-Leonardo/Dee-White/book_9781921150883.htm

    Nice to chat with you again.

    Dee:-)

  11. Good luck with it, Sheryl. I must admit that I found that when I took the ending out and worked on it separately, it got some of the ‘zing’ back.

    Dee:-)

  12. I’m trying that process now + little interludes into Street Racer, of course ๐Ÿ™‚

    Talking about endings (well, beginnings actually) – here’s a terrific writing competition from Mary Kole, US literary agent. It’s on her Kitlit.com blog.
    http://kidlit.com/kidlit-contest/
    Click on the appropriate section on the side bar if you can’t find it.

    Your readers might be interested in having a go at this comp. Just requires the first 500 words of a complete YA or Middle Grade manuscript + a few little other bits and pieces. All free too. The prizes are usually some form of critique from Mary (who, might I add, has a very good reputation).

  13. Dee,

    Thanks for this tip. I have an idea of actually starting my story with the ending. So it is in fact in the first chapter which sets up the story for the remainder of the book. This way I am, if you like, going to to the main character and getting him (or her) to tell their story. I have found this a particularly powerfuil way of engaging a reader.
    I wonder if this was one of your thought processes when writing. Your not giving away the last page but you are certainly in the picture right up front of where this is going to end. Though, the story or the journey of actually getting there is what will attract the reader. I wonder if you can actually make sense of what I trying to get to here? And I was wondering if you have ever used or know of a writer that has used this process before?

    Cheers

    Luke

  14. Thanks for your contribution to the discussion, Luke. Sounds like this is an effective device for you – and it is certainly one that is used by other writers. There is a particular type of crime genre where the crime occurs at the beginning of the story and the rest of the narrative is devoted to finding out who did it, how and why? I probably don’t do it as literally as this, but I usually have a rough idea of the ending right from the start. And when it comes to editing, I think it’s really good to look at the ending in detail. There are a couple of reasons for this – one, the ending can be a bit neglected because we are alway being told that we have to hook the reader from the start. The second reason is that looking closely at the end allows me to see if I have done enough foreshadowing and set the story up enough from the start.

    Good luck with your writing.

    Dee:-)

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