Tuesday, March 2, 2010
No, not the end of my blog, or even the end of the book that I'm working on. Instead, I'm writing about how it happens, that all-important, make-it-or-break-it novel ending. Yesterday Lauren asked: Whenever you write, at what point in the writing process do you know the way your story will end? Before you begin writing? After your first draft?
It's a great question, and yet it's one of those inquiries that is very hard to answer...
When I started writing After the Leaves Fall, I had no idea where the book was going, much less how it was going to end. The story literally unfolded chapter by chapter, until Julia's final step seemed inevitable. It was a really fun way to write because I felt like I was uncovering the tale much like a reader would--through a slow process of discovery.
Summer Snow was different because I knew that there were two possible endings. The only problem was, I didn't know which one it should be. I was incredibly conflicted, and struggled with the outcome until I wrote the final chapters. I'm happy with the choice I made--and I think that it's true to Julia's character--but some readers were disappointed that Julia decided to do what she did. She's been called "selfish" and "immature," but I believe, heart and soul, that she made the choice that was right for her.
And just wait until you read the third installment of Julia's story! It's another surprise ending (and another two-pronged dilemma), and I'm sure some readers will love it and others will think Julia has made another mistake. But I think that's half the fun. Oh, and FYI, I'm nearly done with this book and I'm still wondering how it will all turn out!
Okay, so it seems like I fly by the seat of my pants when I write. But I said this is a hard question to answer... and it is because when it came to The Moment Between, I knew the ending before I wrote the first sentence. How backwards is that? I'm not sure why I wrote that book differently, but I can say that the whole thing unfolded in my mind in a single night. And it was by far my most complicated plot, involving a three-tiered narrative and an interwoven timeline. Go figure.
Sorry I can't leave you with a pat, easy answer, but I think that stories reveal themselves in a myriad of different ways. Some people will try to tell you that you need to know where you're going if you want to write a book, and though I see the wisdom in that (for query reasons, and submissions to publishers, agents, etc.), I don't believe that you have to have everything figured out. It's an adventure, and it should be.
Your turn: Do stories come gift-wrapped (and complete!) to you? Or do you have to seek out answers like clues on a scavenger hunt?