The Answers Lie Within, part 1: Untangling an Ending

Art Credit: Highgate YYoga Sign Artist JPYMAI; photo by me

Six weeks ago, for this week’s post I planned to talk about something I was doing to keep me productive and hold myself accountable: wordcount tracking, and the Excel spreadsheet I threw together that would keep a running tally. I’d just started, so I thought that I’d have something to show for it by now. So, do I? *laughs* Of course nothing went according to plan. (Honestly, I think I might be a bit weirded out if it ever did.)

*insert a cascade of head-banging-on-keyboard* Ow.

Rather, I found myself faced with a few words here, a few there, a few great days, but lately? A whole column of zeros. And that was frankly embarrassing (to my own messed up thought process of “what would people think if they knew? Aaaack!”) Not to mention frustrating as hell. Sure, I had some legitimate excuses—work stuff, new relationship, moving yet again for hopefully the last time for awhile—but at first I was managing some words. Then I wasn’t. And it was maddening.

So why, every time I sat down to work on the WIP, did I find myself desperate to not work on it? I liked my characters well enough, since they’ve been with me for years. I was having fun with the plot elements. Yet even when I tried to tackle it by brainstorming it out by hand in my writing notebook or my running scraps and ideas file, I was continuously stymied. I hadn’t exactly written myself into a corner, but I didn’t know what happened next.

More distressing, I didn’t have an ending. *wails*

Say what you will about the plotter vs. pantser argument. (Or my argument from a few ears back about being a puzzler.) I don’t always know the particulars of what I’m going to write. But the one detail I absolutely require is a goal to work towards. I need to know how the story ends. And given the new direction this story has taken, where I had to divide up one big novel into a few small ones, I didn’t know the ending anymore. And somehow, I’d forgotten this detail about myself.

*cue more keyboard-smashing* My massage therapist just clucks her tongue.

Then, out of the blue, it hit me. (Oww.) I was listening to music while cleaning my bedroom, and Our Lady Peace’s “The End is Where We Begin” came on.

Suddenly, I had the answer. (*This time, the self-abuse came in the form of a head smack.) Of course!

I’ve heard it recommended that the end of a novel or screenplay should mirror the beginning in some way. This helps bring the story and its themes full circle. Yet in the chaos of everything going on in my life, I’d forgotten that. So this time, when I went back over the details of the story, I realized I already knew what had to happen. I just didn’t consciously know I knew it*. Until now.

So, the point of this post, aside from public mental self-flagellation for the reader’s amusement? (Go on, I know you’re laughing. I sure am.)

Listen to yourself. Pay attention to your writing habits, and what works for you. Don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself stuck, because all you get is a massive headache and a crick in the neck. And of course, listen to the story. Usually, the answer is already there because you already had it, but the chaos of life can drown out that knowledge. You just need to take a moment to remember that.

*For my next post, I plan** to share one of my favourite, if potentially controversial, techniques I use.

**This will happen. Honest. In this case, I definitely know the ending.

Comments 1

  • “I don’t always know the particulars of what I’m going to write. But the one detail I absolutely require is a goal to work towards. I need to know how the story ends.”

    “I’ve heard it recommended that the end of a novel or screenplay should mirror the beginning in some way. ”

    Yep. *Nodding along*

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *