Well, the current (and final) cycle of the Mayan calendar might end today, heralding (for some) the end of the world or some such thing. Seems an appropriate day for a creative writing blog to talk about ending a novel. I’ve written in particular about ending my current WIP, “The Esclavan Abductions,” but now I’d like to speak more in generalities. What has my experience been in ending a first draft? Here are some things I’ve learned through the years:
- SOME OF YOUR BEST IDEAS WILL COME RIGHT AT THE END. TIME TO EDIT THEM IN! At least, if your process is anything like mine, they will; some of my best ideas for subplots or subtle changes to plot development come to me JUST as I’m reaching the end of a first draft. This has always been the case, because I’ve never written with an end clearly in mind from the get go, even during NaNoWriMo this year, for which I outlined something. I ended up adding multiple scenes and introducing new subplots after my outline ran out. And I plan to change even some of the outlined material during editing. These realizations are always a combination of daunting and exciting…. I’ve come to expect them, even if I still find it hard to take them in stride.
- THE END MIGHT NOT BE WHAT YOU EXPECTED IT TO BE. And that’s cool, because more than likely, it will be way more complex and exciting and wonderful than what you had expected. If you had expectations at all. Sometimes I don’t. I get an idea about where to start, with a basic overall structure of the dilemma confronting my characters, and let them work their way through it.
- YOU’LL KNOW THE END WHEN YOU GET THERE. Heading up to a particular battle scene with an individual battle in my current WIP, I thought that would be more or less the big scene in the novel. I ended up adding not one, but two more huge confrontations with other enemies before the end!!! When I finally came time to write that scene that I thought would end things, I just knew there was more to this story. And so I let the story keep flowing. The moral: you will know when and where to end your novel. Your characters–and your gut–will let you know. So:
- WHEN YOUR CHARACTERS START SCREAMING “I’M NOT DONE YET!” YOU SHOULD LISTEN. Why my characters felt the need to confront additional harrowing threats to themselves and their loved ones I’m not quite sure, but hey…. I guess they’re stronger for it, in the long run. Basically, they were whispering to me that they had more in them and more of themselves to pour out. When that happens to you, let the characters do their thing. (If it turns out they are crazy and just wrong all around, well, there IS that delete key….)