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I am a writer - late developer since I wasn't published until I was 50. I have now written 23 novels, numerous short stories and articles.

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Sunday, 18 October 2009
So, where does the end start? You’ve been aiming for the end from the very beginning. And along the way you have had lots of mini beginnings – the start of new scenes, the start of new chapters – so you’ve had many mini-ends. But each one of them has been leading to the big one – The End. The plotters among us will know what the finale is to be. The ones who wing it, like me, will have no idea what it will be, where it will be, even if it is happy or sad. Though there have been books where I’ve known the last line; this is particularly odd since often, at the time, this line means nothing to me and I’ve no idea what it relates too. (Don’t you sometimes find writing is a spooky occupation?) Single plot, single viewpoint. If you have one plot all well and good but if you have sub-plots then don’t forget that they will need a satisfactory ending too – all of them. Similarly minor characters need to be tidied away. Nothing annoys more than loose ends. The great publisher at Chatto and Windus, the late Norah Smallwood, referred to this as “gathering in your sheep.” There should never be a cause for a reader to query – what happened to? The gathering of sheep is less complicated in a single VP – but even then mistakes can be made and characters which were once important to the plot, or to the main characters, get forgotten and left behind. This is where keeping a time line comes in handy, it’s an easy way to show you that you’ve left Aunt Maud, who was such a help to your heroine, in limbo. Multiple Viewpoints and sub-plots. When you have say 3 VPs then, of necessity, there are three lots of herds to be tended. If you can think of them independently it does make things easier. For a long time with multiple VPs, apart from the main typescript, I’ve also filed each VP’s chapters, separately. So instead of having to search through the whole, each person has their own folder. It makes checking that much easier and of course, each one has their own time line. (I started doing this for another important reason but I’ll explain that more fully when we get to discussing Viewpoint.) Resolution. Resolution of any conflicts or problems you have created. As there is resolution to the main story line, don’t forget that resolution is needed for all the sub-plots no matter how minor they appear. Tailing off. Once past the middle of the book with all its problems, it’s a good idea to start thinking of tailing things off, how long do you want a sup-plot to continue; do you still need this character? This is because the last thing you need is a clutter at the end, an army of people milling about. It’s far better for the book and the characters if everything is cleared to allow the end to involve the main protagonists. Happy or Sad? Although with a romance a happy ending is anticipated, with relationship novels, which I write, then it is not necessarily the case. I’ve written sad endings to several of my books for the simple reason it was what the book dictated. A couple I had to dig my heels in and fight for, but for me it was the only possible outcome and in the end my editors agreed. The worst thing, for me, is the end. I always find it sad. After all you’ve lived with these characters for so long, they’ve become friends, why you know them better than you know your real friends, since you know their innermost thoughts. Saying goodbye to them makes me cry, and it happens every time!

4 comments:

  1. Great advice, thank you.

    I'm editing my novel (again) and hoping to resolve issues with it as well as the ending, so this is a great help.

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  2. Great advice and as Debs said useful in the editing process - make sure thast all the sheep have been gathered. It should be one of those post=it's in front of you as you write like - the first draft is me, persmission to write sh*te and so......
    lx

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  3. I am very grateful for these posts, Anita. I love the idea of filing different viewpoints chapters SEPARATELY! Brilliant. And very easy to do on the computer, too!

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  4. Another great post. I love the herding sheep analogy. With a lot of my early efforts it was more like herding cats...

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