I have spent the week attempting to end the book That Would Not End. I had an emotionally cathartic dark moment and an exciting climax with waving flags and cheers and…the hero and heroine walked off in different directions. I could have just swatted them! So I've spent days knitting them back together again, pulling threads from all sections of the book, but…but…I need another book. I really do.
So while I was pouting and throwing tantrums over this ending, I asked the other wenches for stories of ending books, and really, the last minute rush to an ending does resemble Mr. Toad's Wild Ride upon occasion! Here's a few examples:
From Sarah Gabriel/Susan Fraser King: I've been through some versions of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride while finishing up books … like the time I had one day to write the last chapter of my Sarah Gabriel historical romance, To Wed A Highland Bride, to get the book in on time — just as my college-age son and his friends decided to brew their first batch of beer in my kitchen — but I learned enough about the mess (and the stink!) of the "barley bree" to inspire the whiskey-distilling hero of The Highland Groom!
When Laird of the Wind was imminently due, all three kids got strep, requiring multiple trips to the doc and pharmacy, and more story reading, board games and vats of chicken soup at home. The only way to finish that book was to go without sleep for days…but it got done!
Now and then I resort to off-the-cuff, frantic last-minute writing, hoping the last chapters make sense as I race the clock…and yet those wild pages can turn out to be some of the best stuff in the book!
From Mary Jo Putney:
I don’t have extravagant stories about ending books while driving across prairie vastnesses, nor beer being brewed in my kitchen sink. Just tales of me becoming ever more crazed and hostile as deadlines thunder down.
I used to think in terms of finishing a book in time to do a final read-through to tweak and fix. I’ve given up such elusive goals. By the time I finish my book, I’m hysterical and sick of it. (Someone said that you know a book is done when the thought of it makes you want to throw up. There is truth to that. <G>)
By the end, all I want to do is hurl the manuscript into cyberspace, moving it from my desk to my editor’s. Since I’m an edit-as-I-go writer, this generally works out okay, though the last chapter is invariably rewritten after I’ve had time to calm down and think about it.
But I have one technique that virtually always goes into ending a book. When I’m several chapters from the end and feel like I’m juggling chain saws, I sit down with a yellow lined tablet (wide space, letter size) and a blue felt tip pen, and I write down all the events that need to happen before the story is over. What is the logical action sequence? What event A needs to take place before event B can happen?
Slowly, working in longhand and probably accessing a different part of my brain, I figure out how the puzzle pieces go together. When that’s done, I can write the ending of the book.
Then I hurl it toward New York.
And then I sleep. <G>
From Anne Gracie:
I usually think I know how a book will end. I write slower in the
beginning of a story and by the time I get to the end I'm usually
galloping. But then in the last fifth the story tends to explode, a bit
like a mushroom cloud, getting bigger and bigger. Which is quite
panic-making as a deadline looms. When I've finished, I usually have
to go back and prune a lot of words from the book. The cutting is
necessary, as these days publishers encourage writers to write shorter
books rather than longer – mainly to keep the price affordable. If one
ignores one's editor's gentle hints about the desired word count, the
print in the final book gets shrunk, which makes it harder for people
to read. (If you haven't noticed this, go and look at some recent
books by different authors and compare the print size and line
spacing) So I cut. The book is always better for the cutting anyway, I
think, so I don't mind at all.
a reader I like a story that ties up all (or at least most) of the
loose ends, so I try to do that, too. I also try to give the reader a
sense of how the couple will go on in the future — not those
"report-in" kinds of epilogues, such as "Bert and Flossie were married
for 63 years, had seven happy, kind blue-eyed children, three of whom
were senators and one a world famous mime artist," etc. I much prefer a
scene from their not-too-distant future, and if I can tie up a loose
end as well, I'm happy.
my favorite ending in one of my books is at the end of Perfect Waltz,
where the secondary romance is tied up as well as the main one. The
hero makes his best friend eat his words from the opening of the book,
which starts, "But she's got no bosoms! You can't marry a woman with no bosoms!" You can read it here:
From Jo Beverley:
I always seem to finish a book in deep immersion and in a rush. I build a book
slowly over most of a year, but then the end seems to have to come like that.
Long days tucked in my study, at my writing computer, in my Aeron chair,
everything else ignored….
Tricky, then, when my deadline came around during our drive across Canada! I
tried to get The Secret Duke finished before the end of July, when we set off from Victoria, but for me, forcing a book is like pulling on a plant to make it grow. So I wrote in the car and in motels, appropriately fueled.
I think perhaps this gave the traveling parts of the book extra oomph!
Cara Elliott/Andrea Pickens:
I am a slow writer, so the idea of having a mad rush to finish a book terrifies me. I try to make sure my contract allows for plenty of time, and then I tell myself that the book is actually due a month before. I'm pretty good at hitting my required pages per week to keep on schedule, and with extra time built in for any unexpected emergency, I haven't yet had to resort to duct tape—or whips and chains—to spur me on to a finish.
Saying goodbye to a character is usually not hard—by the time a book comes to an end, my hero and heroine are like house guests who have overstayed their welcome—I'm ready to boot them out the door! That said, I had a real soft spot in my heart for a secondary character in my Spy trilogy (Lord Lynsley, the spymaster), and was dying to write his book . . and in fact did a good chunk of it before my publisher decided they wanted to move on to a whole new series. It's still sitting there in a file, and I stop by to visit him every so often. Someday, I hope to write "The End" on his story.
Pat back again:
Now that you see the wild and wacky world of writers, how do you meet deadlines? Are you the kind who packs their suitcase a month in advance for vacation or are you still throwing things in as you walk out the door?