I’ve got a few books under my belt, so when it was time to write the end of Blood and Other Matter, I was surprised to find I didn’t know how to write an ending.
I’d never ended a book before. Not really. Persephone kind of ended, but mostly it led into the next book. Daughter of the Earth and Sky practically ended mid-scene. The Iron Queen certainly was an ending of an arc for Persephone, but it was a beginning for Aphrodite and what kind of felt like a midpoint (the place where everything changes) for Hades.
And those endings were fine for those books. Persephone needed to lead into Daughter of the Earth and Sky. Daughter of the Earth and Sky did end on a cliffhanger but every threat from the book resolved in that ending scene, any other line I wrote was the beginning of a new story line. Persephone herself got an ending I’m fairly proud of in Iron Queen, but for Aphrodite it had to be a beginning.
But that kind of ending wouldn’t work for Blood and Other Matter. It’s not a series, it’s a single book. It’s okay to end a book without everything wrapped up in a neat bow, but the story needs to conclude, darn it. And I had no idea how to do that.
Don’t get me wrong, I knew how the book would end, it was the little things. The resolution, the wrap up. So…I just didn’t write it. I went back and revised from beginning to climax four times before I finally sat down and realized I couldn’t wait anymore. I had other books to write.
I sat down and wrote over 10,000 words to get my ending. Maybe 3k of that represents the actual falling action and resolution of the book. I had to write every possibility out before I figured out what I was doing. It was a major milestone for me. Not only did I write my first real ending, it was also the first time I’d written over ten thousand words in a day. I’m not entirely sure I moved from my chair all day. My brain actually felt like it was buzzing when I finished and my child had somehow finished the entire show, Dragons: Riders of Berk and raided the fridge for meals (I swear I’m not normally a horrible parent. She actually gets limited screen time most days and her fridge has a snack drawer divided into food groups so she’s used to putting together her own meals, one from each category).
I love the ending to Blood and Other Matter. I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written. I was crying as I wrote it. My writers group also reported tears (but they may have been tears of agony over the sheer number of typos that occurs when you write straight through an entire day and then hit send without proofreading). And I learned a lot about writing endings.
Struggling to write your own? Here’s some tips that worked for me.
- Endings should evoke an emotion. Pick a song or a book or a movie scene that makes you feel the way you want your reader to feel and watch/listen/read before you write. Don’t borrow it, but get yourself in that mood. It helps. I don’t typically listen to music when I write, but there was one song that just made me feel the ending of Blood and Other Matter. Having it playing in my head as I wrote really helped me set the tone of the ending.
- Get all the possibilities out of the way. That other 7 thousand words I wrote weren’t wasted. Each scene brought me closer to the resolution and feeling I wanted. Something stuck from every version and acted as a building block.
- Go through and find your threads. The major plot conflict is easy to resolve, but sometimes it’s easy to forget promises you made to the readers along the way. On my last pass of Blood and Other Matter, I had a running list of questions that needed to be addressed at resolution. It’s okay not to answer all of them. Life doesn’t get wrapped up in a neat bow. But as the writer you have to be aware of what you’re not resolving. There has to be intention.
There’s a great podcast on endings in Writing Excuses and there’s tons of great books and essays on the subject that get a bit more technical on the subject. But for me, those three tips made all the difference in building an ending I’m super proud of….
4. ….For the moment. Give me a few months and I’ll look back on it and wince. Always, always, always give your drafts time to breathe. I’m all emotionally invested in my super amazing ending right now. That makes me completely blind to flaws. I don’t normally take this many months between drafts, but I have a deadline for another book looming and pre-publication work on another. By the time I return to Blood and Other Matter for my final pass pre-query, I should have pretty fresh eyes.