March 9, 2010

Tuesday Edit Crunch: How It Ends

Welcome to Tuesday Edit Crunch, an informative, fresh, concise, and important part of this nutritious... blog...

I feel like addressing endings is a bit... hypocritical of me. But once again I remind myself (and you) that these weekly Crunches are about what I am learning, not what I have mastered. This will also be a fairly short Crunch, as I have what feels like a knife stuck in my lower back, and laundry up the ying yang (my boys' room looks like their laundry basket exploded). However, I have been looking forward to this post because I did learn some great things about putting the kibosh on the story and characters we never want to leave.

I'll start by re-visiting something I mentioned in last week's post. It changed everything for me. It is, simply, to understand that READERS ARE INTELLIGENT.
In my experience, I felt like I had to hold the reader's hand, as I would a young child's, and explain everything, the purpose of this, and did they notice that, and did they see the symbolism there... And as much as I wanted to share everything about the ending that wrapped up loose ends and hinted at more to come (I'm writing a series), my publisher said this:
"Evaluators felt that the ending was too stretched out. Things came to a perfect ending, and then there were 30 additional manuscript pages... this might be a good place to consider trimming."
Clunk. That was the sound of my jaw hitting the floor.
But I knew. As much as I loved those last 30 pages, as many bits of resolution and humor and foreshadowing into the next book those pages held, I knew where the ending was WHEN I WROTE IT. And that ending was 30 pages less than the ending I submitted. As I turned to the page they referenced, and read the scene again, I remembered. I remembered finishing the scene and thinking to myself, "Oh, that is a perfect end scene... if this was a movie. Oh well, I have to wrap everything up, moving on." Then I continued guiding my 7 year old reader along by the hand.

Another thing I learned about endings: Be bold, be brief, be gone. Aye aye aye. Painful for the romance writer. Know when to quit. After the climax, stop writing. Cut the apron strings. Ohhhh, it hurts.
Which is why I included a couple more pages after the climax, a small, quiet scene providing a little closure, a hint of something to come, a sigh for the reader (and myself).
We'll see what stays and what goes when it gets time to edit for printing. Small thrill shooting through me at the thought.
And don't get me wrong, I still miss a few things from that axed ending. I'll still ask about those points and wonder. But the ending is where it should be now. I have no doubts about that. I already knew, and when I wrote the sequel, the same thing happened. But I took the cue, and wrapped up quickly. I still might get the request to shorten it further. We'll see!

The last thing I'll share about endings is advice on what to do with a troubled ending. I don't mean that you've left your protagonist in a gutter and the bad guy gets elected to run the city. I mean, you have an ending you're just not sure about. It doesn't thrill you and you're second guessing yourself. Listen to the voices, and your critique group. And try this:
List the points that bother you about the ending.
Now list what worked great about the ending of your favorite novel.
Remember that you are an intelligent reader.
Apply what works and what is necessary to your ending. Let the rest go. Re-evaluate, and do it again.

Well, that wraps up this week's Tuesday Edit Crunch. Hope you enjoyed it! I'm going to lie down and read a good book, hopefully one with an incredible ending.
Watch out for the the K's, they're especially crunchy.


Kate said...

I have the opposite problem (I think!). I'm afraid an editor is going to tell me I need to wrap up the ending more tightly. Brevity is my downfall in writing. I'm always having to add.

Kimberly Job said...

The same thing happened to me. I wrote a final chapter to wrap everything up, and my editor cut it completely.

Now the ending is just a feel good moment, and my readers can fill in what happens next.

ali said...

I love that! I especially loved the motto: Be bold, be brief, be gone. Awesome. Gonna have to remember that!

And WOW on the 30 page cut. I loved how you put this together Krista. Great job, thank you!

M. Gray said...

I have been thinking about endings, too!! I finished up my latest story and knew it was sad. But I felt it fit the tone but thought about it more. I sent it to my ideal reader and asked her what she thought. Her advice was SO perfect--she didn't have me change much, but he helped me insert some hope. I like it MUCH better now.

Great advice! That's funny how you knew the ending when you wrote it but went on. I love endings that make you think. And I've changed lately and love it when everything isn't all wrapped up tight in a neat little package, but some details don't go as planned but it still turns out right.

L.T. Elliot said...

Great crunch, Krista! Perfect info about endings.

Shari said...

I've enjoyed your comments on other's blogs so I came by to visit. So glad I did! Excellent post. I have recently been dealing with my own ending and appreciate the wise advice. Thanks!

Krista said...

Kate, I think brevity is a good thing in writing. I'm not sure yet which is easier, to take out or add in (and I've had to do both), but it's a challenge, either way Wouldn't be great if we got it right the first time? I don't know what writers did before computers. Yikes!

Kimberly, that is encouraging. Your interview will be up tomorrow! I'm excited!

Ali, thanks for the compliment!

M.-That exact thing happened with my BoM story! Hope is an incredible force, even if it's only a hint! (I just read The Road, and it's true.)

Thanks, L.T., and Shari, thanks for stopping by! Come back any time. :D

Elana Johnson said...

Great crunch this week! I so agree. Things should wrap up pretty quick after the main event.

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