Searching for an ending…

I may be alone in this. For all I know, every other writer who has ever lived or ever will has never experienced this problem. I could be entirely an exception to the norm in this, but it is still a significant problem for me. The problem of endings…

I’ve spoken before about beginnings, I talk about beginnings rather a lot, because a lot of my favourite quotes are about beginnings. Beginnings are child’s play, you just sit down and write… Yes, that first word can be daunting and I am well aware this may not be everyone’s experience but beginnings for me are the easy bit.

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When it comes to beginnings, I bleed easily…

A dozen beginnings occur to me every day, if only I let my mind wander. I have notebooks that date back years, decades in fact. Notebooks which hold within there pages hundreds of beginnings. Sometimes a few lines, sometimes a few thousand. Those first tentative steps down the path of a story. The net that catches the wild idea and tames them into something small and beautiful, the germ of an idea. A spark of narrative, a few words of dialogue and I’me away… Beginnings, they’re easy… But endings, endings, now that’s another matter…

To get to the point, (yes, I know I seldom get to the point quickly, but who doesn’t enjoy a good ramble?) I am having a problem with the ending of my latest novel. To be more exact I am having the problem of too many endings. I honestly don’t know which I am going with. I had the self-same problem when I was writing both my previous novels, so it’s not a unique issue… This is not to say I don’t know how the book ends, quite the reverse, in fact, I know how the book ends in every possible way it could end. If there is anything in multiverse theory, then my writing agonies about the last third of a novel are probably connected, because if there exists an infinite number of Mark Hayes, the writer, then he (the infinite me) will write every possible ending to a novel somewhere. Perhaps, therefore, they all bleed back into this reality leaving me with so many endings to contemplate and write towards. And that’s the problem; I don’t know which one is the right one.

Even this would not be a problem if I could just convince my characters to play ball. If they would just follow the script, I would find out the same as the reader does, but the script keeps changing, just about everytime I think about it.

I’m about 5000/10000 words max from the end of the novel. I know this due to a number of factors but mostly just down to pacing, and the pulling of all the threads into the weave. It’s the final act, or would be if I could just nail down things down a couple of chapters beforehand. In essence, I have been writing the last few chapters as an act of belligerent avoidance. There are about 10000 words more of them than there should be. I have even titled the last four chapters or so I have written with the same title because, in essence, that’s what they are.  ‘The Wells Idiom‘ as this bunch of chapters is currently known should be two chapters at most, its supposed to be the crossover point where a few things are revealed and the march towards the end begins, but instead, I have been meandering about avoiding pushing on to the end. With every new idea, with every new possible direction ‘The Wells Idiom‘ has grown. All of it is relevant to an ending, but it is all relative to different endings. Basically, I need to make a decision, stick with it and hack the Idiom back. Tame the wild narrative flocks, and stop writing myself in circles.

I have a couple of chapters of both Cider Lane and Passing Place that ended up on the cutting room floor. They were meanders of avoidance too. I may reuse the Passing place ones in another form at some point because they would slip into Something Red (the long impending sequel I have theoretically started) quite easily. At least if they were reworked properly, indeed it is stuff that really now belongs in the second novel. The Cider Lane ones, on the other hand, are just digital dust to gather in the darkness of the hard drive. They relate to a different version of events and while I know they form part of the overall story, they are not part of the story any reader needs to know. If that sounds odd, it shouldn’t. Every writer knows far more about their characters’ lives than ever makes it to the printed page. We have to, but the reader never does, arguably never should, and almost certainly doesn’t want to either.

The Wells Idiom‘ is an important chapter, as it is the pivot, but I need to stop writing it. So far I have maybe three solid endings, and a couple of shaky ones that could work just as well. As well as one that occurred to me in the day between starting this post and finishing it. As soon as I know which I am going with a whole lot of The Wells Idiom will vanish from the manuscript… Some of it will be needed elsewhere in the novel in the final draft, I suspect, as that also tends to happen. But until I chose the path, the path remains unclear.

So, I have a plan, all the possible ends on post-it notes stuck on the wall and the throwing of a hypothetical dart may be involved… But I am going to take the evening and nail down exactly where this novel is going one way or another, and then write the last line… Because when you know where the ending is you can finally write toward it… Some rum may be consumed in this process…

A final thought from Garry Trudeau, who is not a writer of novels but a writer of a different kind who knows much about stories. In a vaguely damning summing up of me and my fellow novelists, which makes me smile whenever I stumble upon it.

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For my own part, and despite all the horrible things I have done to poor old Hannibal Smyth in this novel, the one thing I am sure of about the ending is I don’t feel guilty enough…

This entry was posted in humour, novels, pointless things of wonderfulness, publication, quotes, rant, writes, writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Searching for an ending…

  1. lynnefisher says:

    I can empathise here a good deal. Endings are tough, because in the beginnings and middles you are laying down threads and imparting information about characters that will hopefully have a bearing on the ending if you’re crafted it well. I’m approaching my second novel’s ending, knowing pretty much how it will end, but there is the getting to that point with many choices I could make in the writing now. I did come up with the epilogue for my first, when I got bogged down in the middle, and that certainly helped. Good luck with it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Writing The End… | The Passing Place

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