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.
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.
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.
Watch out for the the K's, they're especially crunchy.