Friday, June 28, 2013

Writing with the ending in mind?

When I started writing my first lot of stories, I was clueless about their endings. All I knew was how the story started. After writing nearly three fourths of my first book, I floundered in mid sea, with no idea how to end it. Several days later, my muse dropped in with an ending I considered brilliant; my editor dismissed it as “the resolution is too common.”

The book lost out not just because of the way I had ended it, but also the way I had treated it. I was clueless right from the beginning about major chunks of the story. Neither the conflict, nor the main character’s goals were well defined. And the character himself was a watery version of the one I had in mind.  

 That incident taught me the value of writing out a book or a story in an outline form, before I actually started working on it. Even for the short stories (800 to 1000 words) that I write for the newspapers, I have a one- line outline in mind:  who is the protagonist,  what is their  conflict and how  it’s  resolved. This helps me get a feel of the entire story before I tackle it.

For the longer stories (2500 to 4500 words) that are used in anthologies, I do a one paragraph outline before I sit down to write the story. This one paragraph outline tackles the protagonist, his/her or conflict or goal and the antagonist or forces against them.

For the books my initial outline is pretty detailed.  I try to get the basic plot points or turning points, especially the ending down before I start writing the story. As this particular outline is just for my benefit, I even add a little about the other characters who assist or provide stumbling blocks to the main character. Several twists and turns the plot takes too are thrown into it. Getting the basic plot points down is crucial.

After the initial hiccup I have decided never to write a story/book until I have an ending in mind. Once the ending is clear in our mind, we can start building towards it, by adding the twists and turns that lead to it. 

Do you all write with an ending in mind? Do you all follow the policy of writing a book/story  in an outline form?  Or do you all just go along and see where the story and characters lead you?            

Update on Grammarly. I have used it a few times. It’s good, but can scare you with a tendency to find too many errors. As creative writers, we do take liberties with certain words and sentences, so these errors are perfectly allowed to creep into our writing. We should just pay attention to the grammatical errors and maybe the use of passive voice.

25 comments:

  1. Very good suggestions here Rachna especially related to preparing an outline for the story!

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  2. Helpful post, Rachna. For me, when I'm writing the first draft of a book, I don't really outline, but I usually do think I know how the book is going to end. Likewise, with stories: sometimes I have a last line in mind that I work toward. I'm afraid I'm one of those "pansters" with a bit of planning ahead thrown in. :-)

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  3. Thanks for the information... I really love your blog posts... specially those on Local Tamil News

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  4. I like to have the end in mind, too. I may not have the exact ending ye, but an idea of what I'm working towards. It helps with the writing when I have all the major parts if the story or novel planned, and the ending is so important.

    Happy reading and writing! from Laura Marcella @ Wavy Lines

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  5. In 90 % of the stories I write I do have an end in mind.

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  6. The ending is usually what I envision first. And I always create detailed outlines. Those can take longer than writing the book.

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  7. Most of my NaNoWriMo expreinces have been like your when writing that first book. I was determined to hit 50k, not to tell a story. It left me with way more than 50k words and no ending in site more than once.

    Then, finally, I started outlining. Even if I find myself sort-of rushing to the ending it always immensely more satisfying to have it and then to worry about fleshing out the path there afterwards, I think.

    Even if it's a bare-bones outline that just gives you the small handful of plot points that will help you reach the end it's still incredibly useful. Those landmarks orient you on your map and insure that you'll reach your destination.

    Great post.

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  8. I think that's a lot of my problem....I never know how my stories are going to end.


    I mean, I have a vague, general, idea...but nothing concrete.

    I really need to do some sort of outlining...sigh.

    Informative post, thanks :)

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  9. Your readers will thank you for making the ending a satisfying experience. My daughter just finished the last book in a popular series and cried in frustration at an ending that was weak and inconsistent with the quality and promise of the first book...

    We cry over things like that at my house! :\

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  10. I write very detailed outlines before I start my novels -- even if they sometimes change when I'm halfway through. But I know a lot of writers who just start writing without any idea what will happen. I find most of their work unfocused and not as strong as I like books to be.

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  11. I almost always write with the ending in mind. And if not the ending, with the climax in mind, since that's what the story's really building up to.

    So actually, I guess I focus on the climax first and then the ending. Usually I have both, though.

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  12. I always outline and know what the ending will be like.

    Thanks for the Grammarly update.

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  13. It's usually the ending that first gives me the idea for a story. Not that I mind changing it as I go, but most of the time I want something surprising to happen at the end and it's best to work backwards from that.

    mood

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  14. I'm like you with what I need to know for novels. Definitely have the ending in mind. Usually I know much more about the ending than I do the beginning.

    Happy Weekend!

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  15. I almost always start with an ending and a main character, and have troubles writing the beginning. I usually have to just start writing, regardless of how awful the opening, and keep going.

    I don't write full outlines, but I do know who the MC are, what the major story conflict is, and how it will end. Sometimes I write it out - not as an outline, but maybe a flash fiction or short story - and then fill in the details as they come to me.

    Oddly enough, I've written a few stories backwards. I write each "scene" with a beginning, middle and end, and so when I add ideas to one segment, it sometimes sparks ideas for earlier or later story line. I doubt I've written anything longer than 2000 words in a linear form.

    Technically, I guess the entire first draft is a plot outline :) But if I sit down and try to write out a detailed outline, I get so intimidated by the details I give up. I envy authors who can plot and stick to it when writing. It would sure make the editing phase easier, lol.

    ........dhole

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  16. The first big story I wrote, I didn't have the slightest idea what the ending would be. I discovered it in the process. This ending first technique is new to me but I'm trying it like about right now.

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  17. A great and helpful post, Rachna! Thanks for sharing.

    All the best!

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  18. This is so helpful!! I often know my ending and struggle with getting there. I love this post.

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  19. Whenever I don't write with the ending in mind, I always get myself into all sorts of troubles.

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  20. The few times I started without an outline, I came to a dead stop not too far into the story. I have to have an outline, so I always know what happens next all the way through the book, including how it ends. I always make sure there's a twist, too, for those who THINK they know how it's going to end, LOL!

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  21. I have found that only about half of the short stories I write are started with the ending solidly in mind. Half those undergo a metamorphosis part way through. I let the tale take its turns, but then have to go back and rework to establish proper development to support the newly changed ending.

    Writing to an outline (even lesser-detailed ones) is always a good idea, but I also think that we should listen to the muse when she suggests a course change.

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  22. This all sounds eminently sensible. I did exactly the same in my one and only book venture. Sound advice!

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  23. I never know my endings until they happen! I wish I did!

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  24. I always know the ending, sometimes even before I know the beginning.

    Jai

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  25. I'm pretty certain Stephen King made a living not knowing the endings to his own books.

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