Carver Edlund said it best in Supernatural; “Endings are impossible.”
You have to tie everything up, bring all of the characters into a place of resolution and no matter what you do it will always feel like you missed something. In fact, on the next few edits it’s very likely that you’ll find one or two subplots that never got resolved.
Don’t panic. It happens. That’s what editing is for, after all.
My first published book Sedition went through four different endings. Witch-Born had three and Deviation (due to release in 2014) had five. That’s a lot of re-writing and re-plotting. It was frustrating and I went through weeks of what I like to call my “hate therapy.”
Basically, “hate therapy” is when I become disgusted with everything I’ve written. From what I understand every writer has this problem at some point. We all come to a place where we stare at our work and can find nothing salvageable about it.
The inner critic comes out in full force, identifying poorly worded sentences, cliché’s we hadn’t noticed before, and weak characters that suddenly remind us of tin soldiers. You know, identical soldiers made of tin with no inner workings, no motivation, and no reason to exist.
By now you’re wondering why I call this “therapy.” There doesn’t seem to be anything therapeutic about loathing your own work.
I learned a couple years ago to embrace this natural period of a writer’s life. When I’m in the middle of “hate therapy” I know I am being too hard on myself and, at the same time, am able to identify some very important things.
Like tin soldiers running rampant on the page.
But instead of dwelling on how bad it is I embrace it as a challenge to fix those things I’ve done wrong. That’s when it becomes therapy. When I turn all that angst into a productive outlet I almost always find myself enjoying the work again.
Persona is coming near to its ending. For those following it online you’re still in chapter fourteen, but I am in the middle of chapter eighteen. (By the way, I dislike chapter fourteen and will be editing it.)
I’ve always had a particular place in mind for Persona’s ending. In fact, I have stubbornly re-worked and worked again and altered my outline in order to preserve this ending. Timelines are crazy hard to keep in check when writing fiction, especially if you’re dealing with something as well documented as World War II.
But about a week ago I had a eureka moment and figured out how my characters get from point A to point B (the ending) without screwing anything up. The timeline is mostly preserved. The actions make sense. More importantly, this ending leaves a profound impact on the characters and, hopefully, the reader.
Persona and Saboteur are the only two books I’ve written where I knew the ending before I got there. To be honest, I don’t know if this is a good or bad thing. Knowing the ending still gives me a struggle because I find myself working harder to make sure the entire book deserves the ending that I’ve planned.
I still have to go through “hate therapy”, it just happens earlier on in the book. But at least I don’t have to re-write several scenes like I did with Sedition, Witch-Born and Deviation.
So … Yes. Endings are impossible. They’re heartbreaking, irritating, and hard work but if we do it right then it’s all worth it.