Monday, 25 June 2012

Fear of Finishing

So you're getting to the end of your manuscript. You think you know how things are going to pan out and you're getting to that big climax - the end is in sight. Then everything dries up and somehow you can't quite bring yourself to put your exhausted characters through those final hoops. There could be several reasons for this:

* You don't want to finish the first draft as you'll miss it when immersed in the nitty-gritty of revisions.
* You're worried the ending isn't going to be satisfactory, or provide answers to all the questions that have been left dangling in the lead-up to that point, or you can't work out how to tie everything together properly.
* What you're writing isn't as dramatic or jawdropping as it seemed in your head. Of course this can be a constant problem, but in my experience it hits harder when reaching the crunch point.

If you're experiencing any of the above problems then it might be helpful to bear in mind the following.

* You've been through a lot with these characters. You owe it to them to offer some sort of resolution, even if it might not be a particularly happy ending, rather than leave them hanging.
* Sounds obvious, but what you're doing isn't set in stone. Subsequent revision may reveal the true strengths of your story and your finale will change accordingly.
* If you never finish the story, all the hours and strain you've invested in it so far will be for naught.

OK, I'll admit I was talking to myself in this post as I grapple with tying up my WIP, but hopefully someone out there will find it useful too.

How do you feel about endings? 

55 comments:

Suze said...

Finishing the story is notoriously difficult -- a great topic for a post, Nick.

All I can say is that we can all take comfort from the fact that it's a challenge for everyone who tries their hand at it? Hopefully, that's an encouragement.

Trisha said...

I've kind of got no problem ending my stories...but I do have problems getting into revisions. It's not that I don't like them, it's just that I am always starting something new. I really need to change that. Truly thought I'd be changing it this year, but turns out I'm writing a fair bit of new stuff instead. D'oh!

Kyra Lennon said...

Ha, I am so familiar with this feeling! In the past, I've written stories without a clear ending in sight, and because I couldn't figure out where they were going, I left them hanging. Now when I write, I at least have a rough idea for an ending before I get into it. It saves so much hassle!

Lynda R Young said...

lol, yeah. I wish I couldn't relate to this. I'm terrible at endings. I keep putting them off.

Hildred said...

I like writing endings and generally don't have too much of a problem...until I start with the anxiety of thinking "oh god now I'm this much closer to getting critiques and ARGH EVERYONE WILL HATE IT BUT ME". I think I'm getting better though, with the advent of editing. ;)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I fear I'll never reach the ending! First drafts are always the most difficult for me so it's a fight to reach that point.

Louise Bates said...

I can especially relate to Point #2 - whenever I start writing the ending, I look at it and go "Really? THIS is what I was building up to all this time?" I even have that problem in outlining, where I get 3/4 of the way through the outline and discover that the inevitable conclusion is actually really lame.

I'm working on that.

Louise Bates said...

I can especially relate to Point #2 - whenever I start writing the ending, I look at it and go "Really? THIS is what I was building up to all this time?" I even have that problem in outlining, where I get 3/4 of the way through the outline and discover that the inevitable conclusion is actually really lame.

I'm working on that.

Louise Bates said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Julie Dao said...

Nice tip! During the middle of the story, I always feel like I can't wait until I reach the ending, but when I do, I don't want it to end! Or I have five different ways I want it to end.

Emily R. King said...

My issue is that my story never feels completely finished. I could tweak words, reorganize sentences, and add details endlessly. The trick is knowing WHEN your story is finished. I wish I had a better barometer for that!

J. A. Bennett said...

I totally have this problem! I never think my climax is good enough. I finally finished my first novel (and by finished I mean written and edited) and of all thing my beta readers thought I needed to fix the ending was the one part they all agreed was good. Go figure huh? I guess it helps to freak out a little about ending the novel just right :)

Morgan said...

I'm totally afraid of endings! Afraid that I'm not creative enough, talented enough to bring things to a clever close... Though I do LOVE the feeling after I've finished a novel... it's sooooo the best! :D

S.P. Bowers said...

Well, since I don't write linearly I don't always write the ending first. Sometimes I write it fairly early on so I know where I'm headed. But I found myself procrastinating the last of my edits. I've been working on this project so long I'm afraid what life will be like without it.

Treskie said...

Endings are super hard! And I get discouraged easily when people critique my work. :)

Bookish Times said...

Hi Nick, I have been writing on and off for 15 years and I am so bad at endings that I leave the last chapter out and there are short stories I wrote 10 years ago that still don't have an ending so great post, feels encouraging :D

Angela Brown said...

As one who just pulled through the thickets to reach the end of my first draft, I can so relate to what you mention here.

Keep it up though. Your The End is in sight and will be there before you know it.

DEZMOND said...

ooh, and when you finish there's a postwriting depression :) What to do after you've done with the project... :)

Leigh Covington said...

I've learned to hate writing endings. However... I have a new plan... I'm going to come up with the ending FIRST! Then I just have to make my characters get there. I heard this is a good way to go, so I'm trying it out!

C.B. Wentworth said...

I thrive on endings because it means I get to cross something off my to do list and head to the next step. At the same time, I'm always hesitant to call something finished. I get stuck in the multiple draft cycle!

Nick Wilford said...

Suze - Thanks. Yes, "We've all been there" is an old adage that holds very true.

Trisha - You're like a magpie, gadding about from one shiny new story to another!

Kyra - My ending's changed from what I had in mind, but at least I had *something* in mind. To have absolutely no idea must be pretty scary!

Lynda - I find they tend to drag out - just when you think you're getting there, more stuff comes up...

Hildred - Oh yeah, I'm about to send out to some CPs for the very first time and I'm excited but also feel a bit sick! I'm worried I'll be wasting their time or something... just have to take deep breaths.

Alex - At least you can sigh with relief when you do get there!

Louise - It's probably not as lame as you think it is, but we probably tend to always think there should be something more... just *more*. Lol.

Julie - Sounds like you enjoy it! I like your enthusiasm. I suppose five different options is a nice dilemma to have - you could always write all or some of them, and see what beta readers think!

Emily - Oh yeah - I don't think anyone can figure that out. Maybe it's when you can't read through the MS any more without gibbering and twitching!

Nick Wilford said...

J.A. - It just goes to show, we have very little objective judgement over our own stuff! I know I don't anyway.

Morgan - Afraid is a good way to describe it - it's so hard to get an ending just right, I've even read bestselling books that I loved that were slightly marred by a lame ending. But I am looking forward to it being done!

S.P. - I can get that - knowing you'll feel different when you're not working on this project. Writing out of order is something that intrigues me. I just skipped one scene as I'm getting towards the climax of my book and already feel a bit disoriented.

Treskie - I can understand that and can well imagine being intimidated by a lot of changes being suggested. Take it on board, but only go with it if you feel in your gut it's right for the story.

Shahnila - You sound exactly like me, I've been writing for pretty much the same length of time and I too have many of those unfinished short stories. I'm getting better at it but still it's one area I find particularly hard!

Angela - Thanks for the encouraging comment. It means a lot. And congrats!

Dezmond - I think a long lie down would be in order before anything else!

Leigh - Just in outline form though, yeah? I did have an outline for this novel (2 years ago), but it's gone far off the beaten track. I imagine what you're trying could be fun, though.

C.B. - As long as you look at each draft as a step forward! Knowing where to draw the line is super tricky, though.

DL Hammons said...

I'm a outliner, so I know my ending way in advance. Never been an issue for me. I will say that I did go back and revise my ending a couple times, because I thought of better ways to resolve certain issues. :)

Donna Hole said...

Endings work out for me because I usually know the end; its getting started that is tough. I'd rather be editing/revising than writing first draft.

.......dhole

Scribbles From Jenn said...

TERRIFIED! Your post was speaking to me also. I keep almost getting to the end, and then....

Nicole said...

Endings are so tricky! Though, usually, I'm excited to finish them.

Michael Pierce said...

I'm feeling this right now. I'm a few weeks away from the finish of my WIP and it's definitely the most stressful to write, even though I've seen the ending in my head for almost a year now. It will be such a relief when it's done...oh wait, then the editing starts. Happy Monday!

Kim said...

Hi! Here by way of Suze's blog... and also I must say I visited Brighton once and it was just lovely.
Endings. I just very hesitantly finished the first draft of a YA novel, and I think my hesitation was primarily because of your first reason - fear of revising. It's one thing to be plowing along on a rough story, and another entirely to try to make it presentable.
Good luck finishing your WIP :)

Melissa Sugar said...

Great tips even if you were just talking to yourself. I am intimately familiar with this feeling. I received some good advice from Martha Alderson, author of The Plot Whisperer. I had been consulting with her on my new WIP, and she knows all about my fear of reaching the finish line. She sugested that I write my ending right after my beginning. I didn't think I could, but I did it anyway and it is not half bad. I am certain I will make major changes during my revisions, but I feel like I will get to the end of the first draft quicker and easier than ever before. It seems to remove a mental block, just knowing that the end has already been written.

Mark Koopmans said...

Aloha Nick,

Dude, I'm stopping by to say thanks for signing up for our "What If?" Blogfest and you hit me with this - right between the eyes...

*THIS* is my struggle, but one shall overcome :)

PS... Sorry about EngUland losing in the penalty kicks again... that sucks...

Talli Roland said...

I'm not a big fan of endings, which is probably why mine tend to happen quite quickly! I don't like a lot of schmaltz.

Lisa Regan said...

You just described my writing life exactly! LOL. And the things I tell myself to get over that hump! I'm on the revisions of my WIP now and although I did write the ending already, now I'm second guessing it a bit. Is it right? Is it climactic enough. *sigh* it's a whole thing.

Annalisa Crawford said...

For me, there's always one last edit... and then another. I've been known to move a single word from the beginning to the end of a sentence one day, and then back again the next. I can't let go sometimes!

Jemi Fraser said...

Endings are tough for me too. I often stop, reread the entire story all the way through and then work ont he ending. I know what needs to happen usually by then :) Good luck with it!

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

Finishing is hard. It has to be as good as the beginning to make the reader's journey worthwhile. That's what's so hard about it.

Lauren said...

I never outline, but I find that the end is generally built in, if I'm paying attention.

I'm tagging you for the Fabulous Blog Ribbon award. Come to my blog for the details.

Claire Hennessy said...

Do you know, I think I have that fear. I almost got to the end of my memoir and then it was too difficult to write the end, so I have just gone back and edited and am hoping by the time I get there again I will feel more able to finish! Good to know I'm not the only one - thanks.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

My problem is I love revising, so I can't wait to finish the first draft so I can do the part I love the most. :D

Hey, I was born in Brighton, too. Never lived there, though. My parents had to drive two hours to the hospital. They made it. Just.

Nick Wilford said...

DL - Sounds like you've got things pretty well worked out!

Donna - Beginnings are difficult in their own way. I *think* I'm looking forward to editing my WIP, but I might feel differently in a couple of months!

Jenn - I know - there always seems something more to do!

Nicole - Yeah, I'm excited too. I'd be worried if it seemed too easy.

Michael - I think it can feel more stressful if it's something you've had planned out for a long time. It's like you put pressure on yourself to get it right. Good luck with it!

Kim - Most people who've visited Brighton love it! Yeah, I think that is a big thing - dragging it out in order to put off revisions!

Melissa - That's an interesting idea, and how fantastic to get that feedback. Part of me enjoys not knowing the ending completely - so while I might have a vague idea I don't think I could write it out in detail. Never say never though - hope it works out for you!

Mark - Glad you could identify with it! I can't wait for the blogfest. The footie doesn't really affect me - I never expect us to do well!

Talli - Oh yeah, going OTT is never a good idea.

Lisa - I guess revisions open up a whole new can of worms. Worth rewriting the ending if it makes it stronger, though.

Annalisa - You have to let your babies go some time! But it's so hard.

Jemi - Hmm, I worry if I did that I'd start revising stuff and get too bogged down in that, but I do see how it's a good idea.

Elizabeth - Well said! Don't want people to feel short changed...

Lauren - Thanks! :) I reckon you're doing something right then, if things play out naturally of their own accord - that's how it should be.

Claire - I'm sure you'll get there this time!

Stina - I think I like the first draft more, as maddening as it can be. Interesting story - so, where were they coming from? We lived just on the outskirts of Brighton and the hospital wasn't two hours drive.

kmckendry said...

I'm struggling with those things right now as well. I'm just not sure how to bring everything together so I'm just forging ahead hoping my characters will figure it out.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Nick .. endings for blogs can be troublesome too - but endings for a novel must be very challenging ..

Good luck - I'm sure you'll tie those shoelaces before you trip on them ..

Cheers Hilary

Elise Fallson said...

The ending is not a problem for me, in fact, I already have it done. Finishing however has been difficult. I have 20 pages left to write before the climax and I just can't seem to get it done. I don't know why exactly, but fear is probably an issue with me.

nutschell said...

endings are always bittersweet. Personally, though, I love getting to the end of a draft. I love the challenge of revision :)
Nutschell
www.thewritingnut.com

Pearson Report said...

Great post - I think it's what many of us are thinking.
I'm tying up loose ends but with each knot there seems to be another thread that needs tying....the endless loop of my WIP. (which to me means Writing In Purgatory)

Cheers, Jenny

Roland D. Yeomans said...

For me, beginnings are terrible as well. So much lies before me. It is a chore to overcome the inertia of starting an entire new novel from scratch!! Great post, Roland

Crack You Whip said...

I have a book I have been dabbling with for a year now. I would LOVE to sit down and finish! I blog too much!

tfwalsh said...

I find it scary to reach the end because I keep thinking back if anything else is needed... ending is final, but I also knowing it's finally done:) Great feeling.

Chris Fries said...

Great post! I also can have a tough time with endings.

But I've also learned that when I write "the end" it is NOT the end. I'll soon be wallowing in edits and revisions for a long, long time, until I'm almost so sick of the story I'll settle for ANY form of ending, lol!

Julia King said...

Great post. To the point and amazing advice. *claps*

Julia King said...

Oh, and you are not a lone. I have a rather diffucult time with endings, even finishing the last couple chapters of edits. It's maddening, isn't it?

Annmarie Pipa said...

I learn a lot and think a lot from your posts...thanks!

J.L. Campbell said...

Good reminders, Nick. The worst part of coming close to the end for me is thinking about the fact that I'll have to do it all over again.

Stu Ayris said...

Great post Nick - and very pertinent to me, having just finished the first draft of my new novel! My problem wasn't the ending as I had already envisioned that before beginning the book - the difficulty was that penultimate chapter - setting up the ending - almost like the G7 chord with the final chapter being a sumptuous C chord!!

Nick Wilford said...

Kathy - If the characters can work it out themselves that's a good sign. Good luck!

Hilary - Thanks. I hope I won't fall flat on my face!

Elise - Maybe you don't want to finish? That would suggest you're onto a good thing.

Nutschell - I can hardly remember revising my first novel. It seems so long ago! Hopefully things will go well this time.

Jenny - Bit like trying to pull a loose thread off a jumper - the more you pull, the more unravels...

Roland - At least you have recurring characters you know intimately. So it's not totally from scratch! I agree though - beginnings can be very daunting...

Crack You Whip - I'm sure you'll manage to finish. Just think of the blog as good practice!

TF - I know what you mean - I'm like, "Have I forgotten anything?" And you're kind of already thinking about how much revision will be needed too.

Chris - You're right, the end is more like the beginning in a lot of ways.

Julia - Wow! Thanks. *stunned* It's hard to strike just the right note with endings.

Annmarie - Thank you very much!! Blushing.

J.L. - As in new book, or revisions? New stories can seem very shiny and tempting in those final stages...

Stu - Good point. It's one thing to have the ending written, but building up to it with just the right amount of tension can be just as challenging. Nice one on finishing your draft!

Medeia Sharif said...

With a recent draft it was so hard to finish, even with an outline. The showdown with the antagonist had me on edge and then I worried I didn't tie up loose ends in the end chapters. I'm going to revise it soon. I'm sure I'll fix any kinks in the ending.