Don’t worry this isn’t some depressing proclamation about the end of the world. This is about stories, about that last chapter, that last line–how I come to it, finally, and how I know it’s right.
I wish I knew some secret formula for finishing a story, because let’s face it, endings are hard. For me they’re the hardest. And although I always have a general idea of where my characters will be both physically and emotionally by the end of a story, I’m never certain of exactly how that will happen. Not after the first draft. Not after the second. Not after the third. Do you see where I’m going with this?
The truth is, the ending is usually the last thing I write. And not for some prophetic or practical reason–not for any reason at all really. If I had the choice, I’d love to know how it was all supposed to end. The last words my characters would say to each other, how that subtle hint at their future would glint just over the horizon, what that last line is supposed to say; how it’s supposed to sound and feel.
But I just don’t. And when I first started writing it would terrify me. I’d come all that way and then…nothing. I’d be stuck for what felt like an eternity, wracking my brain, trying not to have a nervous breakdown. Because without an ending there’s no story. They’re more than crucial. It’s the culmination of an entire reading experience–every thread and question brought to a close in a way that’s supposed to mean something profound. Proof that every word was a choice, the entire thing greater than the sum of its parts. And for some reason I just can’t do it. Three books in and the only thing I can do is sit and wait.
But then it happens, every time. Like clockwork.
I’m not sure if anyone else has ever experienced this. Maybe I’m just strange. But the only surefire way for me to figure out how to write the end of a story I’m working on is to wait. I can’t force it out. I can’t do anything at all. And then in the middle of eating lunch or taking a shower or sleeping, I’ll feel it. The slightest tug. An inkling. A word. And then I’ll know. It’ll hit me all at once, totally unexpected, and then all that’s left to do is write it down.
Three books and it’s happened every time, my subconscious mind still working to put all of the pieces together even after I’ve put the project aside, and it never fails me. It’s a comfort, really. Because not only is it a pretty neat trick, but it’s also taught me one of the most important things about being an artist, to trust the process and most importantly to trust myself.