Word by Word

Practical insights for writers from Jessica P Morrell

Write Your Ending First

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Sep• 20•17

Rains finally arrived on Sunday to our parched region and for the past three nights I’ve fallen asleep to the lullaby of rain coming down. With devastating hurricanes terrorizing the south Atlantic and yesterday’s earthquake in Mexico, it seems selfish to complain about weather these days, but there have been wildfires raging for months here and I’m massively grateful for the rain.

Now onto the topic of this post: I want to suggest a way of writing  endings. As in the climax scene in novels, memoirs, and short stories. The emotional high point of your story.  If you’ve read my books or attended my lectures or workshops you might have heard me talk about how writers should know their endings when they start a story. Now, I realize that there are many, many ways to write a first draft. And that shoulds from people like me can drive you a batty. That some people consider the first draft as a process of discovery and getting to know their characters.

Nothing wrong with learning about your characters and unearthing the meaning of the story as you go along.  But if you’re serious about completing drafts, getting published, or breaking out as a writer, aiming towards your ending with laser focus is extremely helpful.

By now most of the world knows about J. K. Rowling and her Harry Potter series. You’ve probably heard about how she was a struggling single mother when she first hatched the idea for the series and started writing. It took her 17 years to complete the whole series. But what you might not know is that she also knew the ending for the  series from the get-go. This means that knowledge shaped every book she wrote, every character and subplot she included, every death and tragedy that happened. Here’s a fascinating documentary JK Rowling A Year in the Life that explains her background, influences, and process.

Here’s another idea you might want to consider: write your ending first. Before the first chapter or introduction. Nothing fancy. Just the bull’s eye you’re aiming for. Think about it.

The ending is actually a writer’s starting point. A target. And if you don’t like it, or your ideas change or deepen as you go along, well, then change it. It’s that old ‘not written in stone’ concept.

Still aren’t convinced?

  • Writing the ending first will keep your from wandering and meandering as you plot.
  • It forces you to focus on the resolution to the story problem and the protagonist’s goals.
  • Instead of looking back when you reach the climax and trying to figure out if you’ve laid a proper route along the way, you can write with foresight. It means you can also add foreshadowing as you go along.
  • This method is simply more efficient and will save you time.
  • It will help you weave in thematic significance.
  • It will give you insights about how much backstory to include.
  • It’s motivating.

Keep writing, Keep dreaming, Have heart

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