How Does it End?

I’m still working on plotting the ending to this book I’m working on. I struggle with endings. When I start out, I have a detailed outline of the beginning, and the ending of the outline is a vague “they beat the bad guys and live happily ever after.” I tell myself I’ll figure it out as I get closer to it, once I have a better sense of my characters and the story. Then I get there and I still don’t know, so there’s a lot of handwaving and chaos.

But the ending is so important. It’s said that the first page of a book sells that book, and the last page sells the next book. That doesn’t mean it has to be a cliffhanger, just that it should be so satisfying that it makes the reader want to repeat the experience with the author’s next book, whether it’s another book in that series or an entirely new book.

So, I got the bright idea to figure out what that last page should look like. What will the characters be doing at the very end? What will the new configuration be? If the beginning of the book is the “before” picture of the main character and the world, what is the “after” picture once the characters (and maybe the world) have changed?

And I realized I had no idea. I had a vague sense of what the characters will be like at the end, but not what they’re doing or how I’d show what they’d be like.

This week, I’ve been working on that, outlining a potential ending scene and then reverse engineering from there. What kind of story climax do I need to get to that ending? What would lead to that story climax happening? And so forth. That’s made me realize I’ve made some poor choices in the beginning. There’s a whole sequence I can cut because it doesn’t support the character arc (and even undermines it). And that’s going to move the midpoint of the story, which also needs to be changed.

It’s been a good week for doing this kind of work because it’s cool and cloudy, so I’ve been huddling on the sofa under the electric blanket with tea and a notebook and letting my mind play.

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