Sunday, October 21, 2007


I have two different novels that I have been or are currently reworking and editing for publishers. In both cases, I've been asked to rewrite the ending. In one, the ending I have at the moment doesn't work at all. Too "nice", when it's a YA novel that is dark and dangerous. I must have given in to the urge, in the early drafts, to make life happy for everyone by the end. In the second novel, which is for a younger audience, the editor has now asked for an "extended" ending. This is tricky, as a drawn-out "and then and then and then" can ruin what might otherwise be a concise resolution that already works.

How do you write a whole new ending? It's not just a matter of chopping off the last chapter and dolloping in a new surprise. It means re-reading the whole manuscript again, with the idea firmly in your mind that you are now heading for a different kind of resolution, so what might it be? The best way is to chop off the bit that has to go, so when you reach that point, all you have are blank pages, ready for the new words. One of my worries was that it's been a while since I wrote this novel so could I find that character's voice again? Another was that I did still want to leave the characters with an open door, a possibility of good things coming again. We'll see how I go with all that.

The other ending to be rewritten is, to me, more problematic. I do tend to agree with this editor that it needs a bit more, for several reasons. I just don't want to end up with an ending that drags out. Again, all I can do is write a draft and see what happens.

Funnily enough, I opened the latest issue of Writer's Digest and there was an article on endings, but it wasn't much use to me. I wondered if it would be much use to anyone really, as it was mainly about someone who was reluctant to write the ending of their novel. Nothing about endings and what they do and don't do. I find students agonise over endings - they're not easy to write, I agree. But in Short Story, where we do get to workshop a whole piece, often it's not the ending that is the problem. It's the build-up or set-up that's at fault. It's an architectural problem, where you have to look at the whole thing in order to see where you went wrong. Was it Hemingway who rewrote the ending to one of his novels 39 times? I believe that, even if it isn't true!

1 comment:

Kristi Holl said...

I don't envy you having to change endings. We write with a particular end in sight--and that influences how we develop each character, plant each "clue" to the ending, what obstacles we introduce so the character changes in particular ways, etc. Changing the ending requires a revision of the whole book! Good luck!