The end of my novel is giving me trouble. I am having a hard time figuring it out. This has been an issue since I wrote the first word. And it’s scary. After working on this novel for over seven years, what happens if I can’t come up with a good ending? The ending is everything. It’s what makes the whole book worth reading. It’s the last impression readers take with them.
In November when I started drafting new scenes for my revision, I set aside the last six scenes of the book to finish later. I wasn’t happy with the vague direction I had set for the ending, so I didn’t want to invest too much time in writing the scenes. I still planned them out. For each of these six scenes, I also set a timer and wrote for 30 minutes. Because I often discover new insights while writing, the 30-minute scenes seemed like a good compromise. But the 30-minute scenes didn’t magically fix the end of the story.
The ending is a problem I’ve returned to again and again. I’ve fully written two endings, and mapped out many more. None of them have made me jump for joy.
This week I learned something about Jacquard’s moment of crisis that made me cry as I wrote it. I celebrated. Crying makes me happy, because it means I’ve touched on something significant for the story. The scene itself still needs work, but knowing what lies at its core makes the work much more fun.
This insight into Jacquard’s crisis also took care of two out of the six scenes I had set aside. I’ve inched another two steps towards the end. Incremental progress is critical. It’s the only kind of progress we have any control over, because bolt-of-lightning inspiration is not something we can count on. But it sure would be nice to suddenly know the answers.
Will I ever get there?
Yes, I’ll get to something. It may not be the perfect ending. I don’t really need it to be perfect. I just need it to bring the whole story into sharp focus, complete my protagonist’s transformation, and hit my reader hard. That’s all.
It is scary to work on something for seven years, and still have an incomplete story. But the other side of working on something for seven years is that I’m deeply invested. I will figure something out, even if I have to write and re-write the ending many more times.
This is my year of abundance (you can read about that here). And in keeping with the theme, I keep going back to one of my mantras: Face your fears from a place of abundance. It may take an abundance of re-writes to find the right ending for my story, but I have that abundance to give my novel.
Maybe that will be my next exercise: write ten different endings and see what I discover.
Do you have any suggestions for how to create a strong ending?