Why Bad Endings Happen to Good Books

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Rusty "Dead End" sign and post leaning on an angle, near a dirt road

Dead End - mid by bennylin0734 CC 3.0 http://www.flickr.com/photos/benny_lin/191393604

I’ve been struggling with Julia for a while now. I’m on draft 2, 2.5, maybe even 3, I’m not sure since I’ve been editing in chunks rather than in one fell swoop. Anyway, no matter which version, the orignal ending just petered out. It was more of a “ah-ha! I’ve reached my word count, so I’m done” ending than a real ending. Now that I’m on draft X, I’m stalling out on finishing…again. I hate when books have crappy endings. I don’t want that to happen to Julia. However, I’m beginning to see why bad endings happen to good book. Good, solid, satisfying endings are hard.

And it looks like I’m not the only one struggling. In a post last month, Creative Blossom blog wonders “Why can’t I finish a damn novel?!” A Theory. Actually, she has several theories and even a few remedies worth checking out.

I don’t have Shiny New Idea syndrome, but I wonder if I can’t end it because, deep down, I don’t really want to. I mean, what would I do next? Could I really leave Julia for some new character? Maybe I just don’t want to leave her world.

I’m pushing ahead and getting something on paper. It’s a stop-gap measure that I know will be rewritten, but getting something, anything, down feels like an accomplishment. And, perhaps, once the ink is on the paper the pressure will be off and the ending will solidify in my mind. Besides, from what I’ve heard, the average manuscript goes through 10 drafts. At 3-ish, I still have plenty of drafts to make the ending more satisfying.

Are endings a problem for any of you?

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2 thoughts on “Why Bad Endings Happen to Good Books

  1. Really interesting discussion. I’m much better at starting than ending novels, really ending them. Sometimes I don’t know where I’m going and get lost in another story on the way, but usually it’s something else. I think it’s hard to say, “There, it’s done. It’s the way it should be now.” Maybe it’s the perfectionist in me speaking. However, I can also relate to not wanting a story to end. I see it as partly a good thing because it shows that we care about our stories and characters, but it’s certainly not very practical.
    My best suggestion to you would be to try writing a bit of short fiction or a sequel about your main characters or set in the same world. Maybe just for yourself. Sort of convince yourself that an ending is not necessarily “goodbye forever”. I know it helps me that my guys live on in other stories so to speak and that I can spend time with them even though their book is over.

    • I have trouble stepping away from a piece…I’m afraid I’ll never go back. I really like your idea of doing a short story in the same world, a sequel for my character. I think you’re right in that it may help me let it go and be OK with giving the book a real ending.

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