Monday, May 30, 2011

That's All Folks

Someone once told me that people tend to be better at either beginnings, middles or ends. By this they meant as a general pattern in life. For instance, it might be easier to start a new project or new relationship or new life stage than keep going with it over the long haul (a middle) or in fact finish that project or cope with goodbyes or endings.

Indeed, I am a beginning person myself. I love the promise of something new and the hope it imbues. Spring is my favorite season. I don't mind taking risks to try something brand new. I'm impulsive enough to make this relatively easy without sinking into paralysis. And I'm passable at middles, with enough will power and stick-with-it-ness to get work done and ride the twists and turns of an experience or relationship, although I don't always get these right or make the most of the potential. Still, I'll slog through toward the other end.

But endings? I'm still working on those. I don't do them well. They are not real to me. Until this point I've been lucky enough never to lose someone close to me. And I've never ended a relationship on purpose save once. Usually I've let them drift away. When I leave jobs my goodbyes are brief and haphazard. I moved around so much when I was young perhaps endings were too painful. Or so brutally out of my control I'd rather walk away in an unplanned fog than face goodbyes. Endings mean there are no more chances, and if I haven't felt satisfied with what has happened I struggle with accepting that possibility. I have a few more theories about why they are so difficult for me, but I won't bore you with those here. Instead, I'd like to talk about how this personal pattern affects my writing.

I've noticed in the brief history of my writing career that three of the five new projects I've begun have turned out to be series. Two of them are series that involve the continuing story of the exact same characters, not minor characters taking center stage for their own stand alone books. The third series may not focus on the same protagonists, but involves a specific overarching plot twined through the different stories. I suspect this tendency to write series is not because doing so has become popular. It's more of that hang-up I have about the finish line.

I've also been accused of rushing my endings. Bound Odyssey, which met with rave reviews, was criticized as having a rushed ending. I laughed reading those comments because the book was so long I had to edit it prodigiously to get it to fit my editor's outside length limits. But it's true that endings make me uncomfortable. Once I've written the meat of the story and resolved the emotional conflicts I don't like drawing things out. Sometimes this works better than other times.

And the times I have finished stand-alone projects, the endings are always beginnings. Of course in romance this is easier to achieve than elsewhere. In those stories the successful embrace of love means the couple have a whole life ahead of them. Love is not always so neat in real life. Yet symbolically, all endings are new beginnings. When one door closes, another opens. I like this concept. It helps me fight whatever fear endings represent.

I dreamed of becoming a writer for years before I completed a project. And the key to finally doing so was imagining an ending to my story idea. I am not a pantster, but a plotter. I am unable to create an ending organically as I write my tales. I have to have one in mind before I begin. This allows me to begin the book, even if the story changes along the way. It eases my anxiety over endings and keeps it from blocking my character and story resolutions. If I know the end then I can prepare.

Ahead of me looms the need to complete one of my series projects. I cannot stretch them endlessly (pun not intended) no matter my struggle. Maybe as I age and gain wisdom (if I'm lucky) I'll mature into handling endings differently. My readers will just have to wait around and see.

What do you believe about endings? Are you satisfied with the ones you read in most novels? Do you struggle writing them if you are an author?

And so I am done with this blog. I think. Just kidding.

The End


Wynter Daniels said...

I don't struggle to write endings. Often, I welcome them after fighting with the middle! Beginnings are my favorite though, all those new possibilities.
Good for you that you are good at series. That's what I have to work at.

Jina Bacarr said...

Thoughtful post, Michelle. Writing is such hard work it's easy to run out of steam at the end of the story.

I find it's helpful to take a look at the character's motivation when that happens--esp. the antagonist! Often you can breathe new life into a scene late in the story merely by changing or looking at another pov.

For example, I'm writing a novel about the Titanic right now and I have a major scene with the heroine and a secondary character during the last hour on the ship before it sank.

When I turned the tables on the heroine and I made her see what was happening through the other character's eyes, the scene came alive and was very satisfying (I don't want to give anything away!)

It's important to dig deeper then let things develop in a new way--it may surprise you!

I hope this helps you.

Michelle Polaris said...

Wynte,Jina, thanks for the comments. It's probably very common for authors to struggle most with middles. They just don't get me as anxious as endings. I don't think it's a matter of losing steam, as an issue with how much to draw them out. Ironically, I've been happy with all of the endings I've written, even those accused of being rushed. Still, there's something about them that always make me uneasy when it's my writing.