Tree Branches, Clem Onojeghuo

So I Had a Bad Week

Last week was a really hard week for me.

I got sick for the second time in a month. While it wasn’t the awful flu that took me out a few days while on vacation in Walt Disney World, it was still not much better. An acute upper respiratory infection plus two ear infections. I’ve never had a cough this bad before that I can remember. It’s all-encompassing and worse when I sit up which made sitting and concentrating at a desk all week incredibly difficult.

I took off work Tuesday and left early on Wednesday. I made it through all of Thursday, just barely, and my emotional well-being deteriorated due to some things that happened at work that I wish I could go into but have done so privately enough to keep myself from doing so in a public forum. I went to urgent care where I got my diagnosis, four medications, and a doctor’s note to miss again on Friday. Then I went to sleep.

Despite being off work on Friday, I still took care of some things at home because I care about my job, knew I left some things open, and because I’m good at my job. But that apparently wasn’t enough and I had a minor breakdown about my job late Friday night into early Saturday morning that only succeeded in making me even sicker.

Sometimes there are things that you can’t control in the moment. I can’t control my job right now. I love my job. I love where I work. There are just some aspects about it that are making it difficult to remember all the things I love about it. I don’t want to look for another job. It’s an additional stress I don’t want in my life right now. Right now I’ve marked that the part of my life that is my job – a bit part considering that working 40 hours a week is pretty much the overarching feature of my job for the majority I’m awake – isn’t controllable at the moment. I can’t immediately change or fix or better that situation.

So my sickness, low moments, and frustration forced me to ask, what can I control right now?
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JK Rowling - Deathly Hallows Ending

The right ending

The final chapter or scene in any novel is incredibly important because if a writer messes it up, that’s what the reader will remember forever.

I can think of several times when the final moments in a book have colored my opinion of an entire book negatively. In Veronica Roth’s Divergent (read my entire review at goodreads), I thought that the ending happened too suddenly, out of nowhere, and getting to the climax lacked transition. When I’m reading something as intense as that, something with a new world that sits in dystopia or whatever, I expect a satisfying punch at the end, and what I got frustrated me and marred my view of the book entirely.

Whereas I gave Divergent 4 stars overall yet didn’t ever continue with the series, the better example would be Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper, which had such a rage-inducing ending that I literally threw the book across the room (no, seriously, as my BFF Becky, who was witness to it). Seriously. Deus ex machina has no place in contemporary realistic fiction, and yet that’s exactly what Picoult pulled. I’m told that most of her novels pull those type of shock and awe endings, and it does nothing for me. In fact, what it does for me is tell me I can’t trust the writer for any reason at all. Books with those kind of endings aren’t worth my time.

To no one’s surprise, Gone Girl toed the line in this area, too. I mean, it wasn’t that the ending was wrong — because it wasn’t. It also wasn’t that the ending made me unhappy or dissatisfied either. What it did was take me on a roller coaster of emotion and make me question everything I knew about the book and, more importantly, life in general. In Flynn’s case here, she has the potential to divide her audience into people who loved the ending and who hated it, but in my opinion, it didn’t negatively cloud the rest of the book the way other endings have.

And then there are some novels that are just unsatisfying when it comes to the ending. These novels I can’t really even pick out of a crowd because they are the 3 and 4 starred novels that I can’t say explicitly now what I didn’t like. It may have been the writing or the plot but more than likely it was the ending, because if it’s bad writing or uninteresting plot, I’m at the point in my life where I finally just close and discard the book. So chances are good that if I finish a novel feeling eh or unsatisfied, it’s because the ending didn’t do anything for me.

All this to say that writing endings is hard. Like, really, really hard. Very few people get it right. People get close enough to right that it works, but the perfect ending? I don’t think it’s possible to achieve.
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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.
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