And then we came to the end… UGH

Endings are tough. They make or break your story. A poor ending can utterly spoil an otherwise serviceable story, while a great one elevates it, making it more than the sum of its parts.

I really, really struggle with this. Sometimes everything in the story comes together and your ending is happy, sometimes things fall apart and your ending is tragic, sometimes you’ve got an unsettling mix of the two. But that doesn’t change what the ending needs. That an ending must fulfill whatever you’ve set up on the first page is obvious — without that fulfillment, it’s not an ending at all. But when you’re writing an ending, you’ve also got to ask yourself: does this hit all the right notes? Does it leave the reader with resonance? Is it logical and evocative? Sometimes the ending just falls into your lap and comes out perfectly the first time you type it. But if you’re like me, most of the time writing a decent ending is a serious undertaking.

I don’t have any sort of easy answer for this. My best solution is to simply open a new file, copy the climax from the original file and paste it in, several times in a row. I put in page breaks between each ctrl+p so I don’t get visually overloaded, and then I riff. I write an ending. I scroll down past the page break and write a different ending. And so on.

It might take me six or seven tries to get close to what I want. But I find that if I keep myself noncommittal and open to possibilities, and write the most obvious thing just to get it out of the way and then ask myself a torrent of questions in the vein of: what else could I say here? Where else can we go? And what am I saying anyway? And how else could I say it? that eventually I’ll come up with something that resonates the way I want it to.

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. That’s why I subscribe to partial insanity instead. I write my endings over and over, changing them a little each time, until I finally get what I want. I wish I had a clever, EZ, lazy way to do it.

But I don’t.