How to end your story already! (in 3 steps)
Shawna Ayoub Ainslie shares some tips for placing the final puzzle piece in a story that doesn’t seem to want to end.
If I am being very honest, I am not great at endings. Writing beginnings and middles feels natural to me, as I am swept along by possibility. An ending puts, well, an end to the joy of the writing journey. Once I’ve committed, there is still revision to do, but it is (hopefully) more about fine-tuning what is already in place rather than creating something new.
I write because I love the act of creation, but the act of completion is integral to this process. No matter how much I might like to avoid endings, they are a necessary step in improving my writing ability. I’m a bit like Bilbo Baggins, I suppose: I live it, I write it, and I only part with my story when the end is inevitable and necessary (i.e. a deadline looms).
There are a number of methods to finding the “just right” fit to close the piece you’ve been writing. Inspiration is one example, but not one you can always control. Here are three methods for creating an end to your piece that are entirely within the realm of your control as the author:
Go back to the beginning
Like with a thesis statement, we often leave ourselves clues for where we intend to land when we set sail with writing. Looking back at your opening lines can remind you of where you and your characters have been and what changes took place, and can steer you toward the most meaningful conclusion. In other words, seek the organic inspiration, but failing that…
Create a deadline and stick to it
As I said, my writing is most often completed when a deadline is imminent. These deadlines are generally external (set by an editor), but sometimes I schedule a deadline for myself. It can be hard to hold myself accountable, so a great way to create a deadline you can stick to is to use the buddy system. Write with a friend and set a date to exchange drafts. And if one buddy isn’t enough…
Join a writing group
Writing with one buddy is great. Writing with a group is fantastic. Writing groups give you more points of accountability. Feedback from multiple readers can be a stabilizing hand on the steering wheel when the way is unclear. Not to mention community is a writer’s best friend, because what comes after endings? Submissions! Establishing yourself within a network of other writers opens all sorts of doors, which is to say, this method of finding an ending may reward you with new beginnings.
Still unsure? Register for Writing the Wave, a beginner’s course that takes you on a journey through the creative process so you can write solid beginnings, middles, AND endings.
Related reading: Take yourself seriously as a writer in 3 steps
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