The Other Direction; Photo by James Wheeler / Flickr

Getting to an Ending

I wrote before about how writing sometimes scares me, that getting closer and closer to an ending makes me more and more scared about what that means. But it’s not just about being scared. I also find myself slowing down the closer I come to an ending. I’m hesitant. I simultaneously want to be done and don’t want to be done.

Endings are particularly hard for me because I don’t prepare for them. I don’t do outlines for my novels. I don’t have the end in mind for a book at its start or even by the time I get to the middle or even at all. I’m about 10K words away from my word count goal for this novel, and I have no idea how it’s going to end. Now I know a word count isn’t the be all and end all of a novel, but I work that way so I have something to work toward, since I don’t work off an outline or summary.

One of the things I love about writing is having the ending sneak up on me. I’ve had it happen before that the ending came out of nowhere. In fact, in my last two finished novels, I was writing a scene and realized it was the last one. In one case, a few revisions later I realized that was premature, and I rewrote it. Something that bothers me as a reader is a rushed ending. A good example, for me, was how Divergent ended. In fact, it bothered me so much, how quick the ended happened, how much seemed to be missing or glossed over, that I never continued with the series. That’s one of my many fears in my own novels. I want to ensure that the ending is right.

With this novel, I feel like I’m flailing. I’m nearing the word count goal I set for myself, and if I follow my counts for other scenes and chapters, I’ll hit 70K in about five more scenes, give or take. The problem is, I don’t know what that last chapter is going to be. I can visualize the rest of my novel stretched out on a road in front of me (fitting, then, that the novel is about a road trip), but I can’t visualize what form each scene takes.

It’s like I’m staring and stretching for a horizon or a sunset just out of reach. The only thing to do at this point is to keep writing. One scene at a time. It’s just that by this point when I’m writing, I usually feel something akin to an ending, or at least I’m driving toward a conclusion. I don’t feel that way with this novel. In fact, I feel like I could just keep writing scene after scene with no ending in sight. It isn’t that there’s that much more to be said. It’s that there’s no clear finish line this time around.

I go back and forth about whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. On the one hand, it means the story and the characters are coming easily to me. On the other, it means I’m writing an awful lot of filler scenes, scenes without any substance, scenes that, if cut, wouldn’t change anything about the novel. They might be unnecessary. Of course, sometimes I think this entire story is a bit unnecessary, but that’s a completely different problem than not knowing how to end the book.

I want to be done with this novel, not because I’m ‘over it’ or want to move onto the next project, but because I want to feel that sense of relief that comes with that final period. I want to enjoy the relief for at least a day before I dive into extensive revisions. I want that sooner rather than later, and of course the problem with that is that I have to get to that ending. And clearly, I’m struggling, which is why I wrote an entire post about it instead of working toward it in the novel itself.

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