Common writing mistakes 2 — ending sucks

This is the second in a (very) occasional series of common writing mistakes made by unpublished writers. (Note, I am not a published writer, but I do write, and I do read.)

This is one I know I am guilty of myself and I’ve read quite a few published novels that do exactly the same thing. Especially first novels. It’s the rushed ending.

It goes like this. You’re reading a novel. You love the characters, you’re caught up in the storyline, you’re really enjoying the book. Then you get around 80% through and suddenly the whole thing goes off the rails. The end whizzes up on you so fast that you’re left going, “Huh? How did they get from there to here?”, and sometimes, “I don’t get what just happened here?”

Then, instead of going back to the author and being able to say, “This was a great story, I’d read anything you wrote,” you have to spend two days trying to work out what went wrong, and how.

We’ve analysed our own writing and for us it comes down to two things:

  • We just want to finish the book. We’re so close, and we’ve been working on it for so long and we can see that we’re nearly there so we just go and go and go. And when we’re done we’re finished. We don’t go back and edit because we’re drained. And we’re finished. There’s no more to do. We don’t want to touch it until the next draft. Besides, we have other ideas percolating and we want to do them now.
  • As we write we re-write. When you starting writing for the day you re-read what you wrote the day before (usually) and fix any problems. We also regularly go back over the whole story, re-reading, fixing things. Thus the first part of the book gets a lot more rewrites than the second.(Logically this means that the first part of the book should be better than the anything else, but usually it isn’t. My theory as to why not is because it takes time to get onto a roll. Whene you’re around 20-30,000 words into the book you’re into the story and into the habit of writing, so the writing from there on flows much better.)

There’s an easy way to fix this.

Drafts.

Drafts 2 and 3 (for us) are where we attempt to fix up that hurried ending, where we expand it and explain what we knew in our minds but forgot to tell the reader first time round because we were in such a hurry. But it takes time and distance for us to even admit that the ending doesn’t work. If we wrote our next drafts immediately after we wrote the first one I’m not sure we would see that as clearly.

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