As you all know, I’ve struggled with my endings. Ending a book is hard. But my favorite episode in Writing Excuses season 2 focused on endings. How to write them, what to do, what not to do. The most useful tidbit that I got out of this is how Howard approaches his endings. He waits until he’s about ¾ of the way through an arc, then goes through the story with his writers group and asks “what promises have I made to the reader?”
Honestly, that’s genius. If I did that in my writer’s group, I’d instantly have 9 different opinions on how the book should end. People would make connections I hadn’t thought of in ways I hadn’t thought of it. It’s a great exercise, and one I intend to use going forward.
But not with a series, because 1. I can’t ask my writers group to go back and read the last 6 books. And 2. Series introduce their own ending problem.
When I wrote Venus Rising, my ending kept falling flat. I went through the book and asked myself what promises I made to the reader, and realized I was meeting all of those. So I went through the trilogy, what promises was I making? Well, I’d met all those, so what was the problem?
The problem was that this book, standing alone by itself didn’t make the promises I’d made to the reader in books 1 and 2 matter. If I’d ended the series at book 2, the ending I’d written would have resonated perfectly. But because book 3 was written without including more than a scene or two referencing some of the sub plots that were wrapped up in book 3 (because I didn’t have a POV character in the place where all the sub plot stuff was happening) the ending lost all its power. So identifying, yes, I’m keeping these promises is important, but identifying, well, I am keeping this promise but I didn’t make this promise this book, is also important. In the case of Venus Rising, it’s going to take some restructuring, possibly the addition of another POV character, at minimum more scenes with this specific group of characters to make those aspects of the ending feel like they matter.
You can listen to this episode of Writing Excuses here or read the transcript here.